King County health panel stamps out e-cigarettes

January 18, 2011

By Staff

King County Board of Health members restricted sales and use of electronic cigarettes last month.

The e-cigarette is a battery-powered device designed to deliver a nicotine-based and flavored liquid vapor.

The board voted unanimously to restrict the sales of e-cigarettes or any other unapproved nicotine delivery devices only to people 18 and older. The board prohibited free or highly discounted electronic smoking devices or unapproved nicotine delivery products. The use of e-cigarette devices in places where smoking is prohibited by law is also banned.

“I am pleased that the Board of Health acted today to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to youth and to restrict their use in public spaces,” Board of Health Chairwoman Julia Patterson, a county councilwoman, said in a statement. “E-cigarettes are used as a means to encourage people, especially our youth, to begin smoking. Their safety and long-term health impacts are untested and unknown.”

The e-cigarettes carry a special appeal to youth. They are sold in convenience stores and mall kiosks and come in candy flavors, including chocolate, vanilla and mint.

“The Board of Health’s responsibility is to create policies that foster the health and well being of our community, and today’s action will help achieve that objective,” Patterson said.

The federal Food & Drug Administration is investigating e-cigarettes, but the products remain unregulated at the federal level.

“This Board of Health proposal is a reasonable step to protect youth immediately in King County while federal authorities continue to look into these products,” Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County, said in the statement. “Through this regulation, young people in King County have one less opportunity to get hooked on nicotine.”

The federal government has warned e-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead youth to try conventional tobacco products.

“The Board of Health’s action will help protect our youth from the addictive effects of nicotine,” Dr. Bud Nicola, a board member, said in a statement.

The devices mimic the appearance of regular cigarettes, because the user exhales a smoke-like vapor similar in appearance to the exhaled smoke from a cigarette.

The use is almost indistinguishable from the use of traditional tobacco products in public, causing the potential for confusion for people who use traditional tobacco products.

“No matter how it’s delivered, nicotine is highly addictive,” board member and Lake Forest Park Mayor David Hutchinson said in the statement. “We took an important step today to keep these unknown products out of the hands of kids in King County.”

The board convened a tobacco policy committee in June 2010 to review the evidence and develop tobacco policies to respond to current policy opportunities and disparities in King County.

Though several other jurisdictions nationwide have created e-cigarette regulations, King County’s are believed to be the most comprehensive in the United States.

The board sets countywide public health policy, enacts and enforces local public health regulations, and carries out other duties of local boards of health specified in state law.

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13 Responses to “King County health panel stamps out e-cigarettes”

  1. Treece on January 18th, 2011 6:41 pm

    Banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is warranted, of course. It’s too bad the FDA refuses to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products per the federal courts–but rather insists on wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on endless litigation–since that would automatically ban the sales of e-cigarettes to minors.

    That said, King County didn’t stop with banning sales to minors. They banned the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited. Why? Because e-cigarettes resemble real smoking. Therefore, they might “cause confusion” and make smoking seem “normal.” (When 20% of the population does something, is it not “normal”?)

    There’s no smoke with electronic cigarettes. None. Zero. No smoke, no odor, no ashes, and no butts. No concerns about bystanders. Still, King County took it upon itself to ban something because … it looks like something … that they don’t approve of….

    Scary stuff.

  2. aipfan on January 18th, 2011 7:07 pm

    Julia Patterson has been, and continues to be, misinformed about the electronic cigarette. There was no dispute from anyone involved in this legislation, including Washington residents who came to speak their minds on the bill before it was voted on, that e-cigarette sales should be banned to youth. The debate was about whether to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public, a part of the bill that was nearly defeated when an amendment was offered.

    Ms. Patterson cannot cite a single scientific study that shows e-cigarettes are attractive to children, nor a study that has even shown that one single child in the U.S. is using the device. Further, considering that tobacco companies like RJ Reynolds are NOT selling e-cigarettes, her statement that e-cigs are used to get youth to start smoking is completely unfounded, and frankly, insulting to my intelligence.

  3. Elaine Keller on January 18th, 2011 7:49 pm

    It is a widely believed myth that e-cigarettes are targeted at youth and/or that the products are only used to “circumvent anti-smoking laws.” Before enacting legislation, however, a conscientious politician should verify the facts.

    It is difficult to believe that any member of the board of health came any closer than 100 feet of an e-cigarette in use. Anyone with a working sense of smell can discriminate between tobacco smoke and vapor. Smoke has a distinctive odor, both during and after use. In Virginia, where the Attorney General ruled that e-cigarettes are not included in the indoor smoking ban, there has been zero confusion. No smokers have lit up indoors because they saw an e-cigarette in use. In fact, what usually happens is that the smoker, who would prefer to stay inside where the climate is controlled, begins to consider making a switch to a much safer product.

    The survey of e-cigarette consumers conducted by the Tobacco Harm Reduction organization found that “All respondents previously smoked and 91% had attempted to stop smoking before trying ecigarettes. About half (55%) were 31-50, while 32% were >50 years old. Most (79%) of the respondents had been using e-cigarettes for <6 months and reported using them as a complete (79%) or partial (17%) replacement for, rather than in addition to (4%), cigarettes."

    So if 87% are older than 31 years, and 91% had attempted to stop smoking (65% tried more than 4 times to do so), the facts say that the target market is not young non-smokers. The target market is older people who smoked for decades and had difficulty stopping.

    Article available:

    Julia Patterson claims that “The Board of Health’s responsibility is to create policies that foster the health and well being of our community, and today’s action will help achieve that objective." FDA-approved smoking cessation products have an abysmal success rate–7% at 6 months, 5% at 1 year, dropping to a mere 2% at 20 months.

    If 79% of consumers have completely switched from inhaling deadly tobacco smoke to vapor that contains no tar, no carbon monoxide, no particulates, and none of the 4,000 chemicals created by the process of combustion, how is it in the best interests of public health to discourage use of the products? Banishing former smokers to the smoking section hardly seems to be in the best interests of their health. Such banishment also removes a powerful incentive for smokers to switch to a healthier life-style.

  4. Petrodus on January 19th, 2011 12:51 am

    King County BOH couldn’t care less about Health, Truth, Science,
    or even “Common Sense”

    There’s no less than 9 pages of comments left by the public
    on the SeattlePI news page after King County lost its mind and
    banned E-cigarettes.

    Reading the comments on the SeattlePI news page…
    Even the citizens of King County think their Board of Health
    is a JOKE


    King County hosts “Hemp Fest” every year but bans E-cigarettes
    to Save the Children.

  5. Professor on January 19th, 2011 3:17 am

    I don’t think Julia Patterson is misinformed at all.

    She is just one of many ego zealot wallowing in her
    little power circle forcing her zealot beliefs on others.

    Zealots like Julia Patterson need to have a banner
    to waive to justify their insanity. Save the Children

    After 40 years of smoking 2-3 packs a day…I stopped smoking cigarettes the day I purchased my E-cigarette. No withdrawal and never bought another pack. Never even wanted to smoke a regular cigarette again. For those who smoke cigarettes…You know this is the highest possible recommendation for any stop smoking (cigarettes) product.

    Zealots like Julia couldn’t care less about personal testimonials
    because she and others believe in the “Quit or Die” motto.
    People like Julia couldn’t care less either way. Quit or Die.

    IF the hypocritical King County zealots were concerned about
    Saving the Children… they would not host Hemp Fest every year.

    Here’s a suggestion for King County’s Board of Health
    BAN “Hemp Fest” … Save the Children

    The majority is laughing at King County’s BOH

  6. Google on January 19th, 2011 7:01 am

    Truth means nothing to zealot members of the
    King County Board of Health

    Trying to have an intelligent conversation with the zealot members of the King County’s BOH is like trying to rationalize with a 2 year old on why she can’t have M & M’s for dinner. You can give her all of the logical, reasonable explanations and she still says, “M & Ms!” and refuses to eat her dinner!

  7. Tony Lightbody on January 19th, 2011 7:33 am

    Stupidity at work, I’m sure they patted themselves on the back too after that might show or stupidity.

    What are they going to do when the FDA approves ecigs and has legislation for them. For that matter how can they or anyone take them serious while they and all other politicians continue to allow the sale of tobacco cigarettes.

    What hurts more is that we vote these morons in as our representatives so what does that say about us. Or maybe just the wrong people are voting and making decisions.

  8. Gary on January 19th, 2011 3:12 pm

    I drove down from Vancouver BC and spoke against the ban at the BOH meeting last month and was give a whole 2 minutes to speak!

    I simply wanted to encourage all board members to do more research on BOTH sides of the issue before making their decision because I knew that 2 minutes was not enough time (nor very fair) to say all that needed to be said in defense of the potential value of e-cigs.

    If as much energy went into seeing if these “might” be better than tobacco, it’s possible (likely) that e-cig sales would put the makers of Nicorette and Chantix out of business with those products that we know do not work for many people.

    Clinical trials are being done every day by millions of people worldwide. We are the guinnea pigs and are here to say that e-cigarettes DO help to quit smoking!

  9. Spike on January 21st, 2011 9:49 am

    This product has helped more than a million people stop smoking. Now King County wants these former smokers to go stand outside with the smokers without one shred of evidence that shows that these products are hazardous in any way. In addition to the fact that these FORMER smokers are now inhaling secondhand smoke which they quit smoking to get away from… they now lose the incentive that encouraged them to stop smoking in the first place. They could just smoke “real” cigarettes if they are going to go outside anyway. This law will send e-cigarette users BACK to smoking! How does that benefit public health???


  10. Giamotti on January 25th, 2011 12:30 pm

    I’m a big fan of e-cigarettes. I bought one not too long ago, and switched from smoking to the e-cig. Since then, my breathing has gotten easier, and I can also smoke anywhere I want. For those of you who still smoke, I highly recommend taking a look at some of the different models and giving one a try.

  11. Matt Zuke on February 3rd, 2011 1:08 am

    It can’t be said enough the DOH is making a choice on emotion, rather than objective medical data. They don’t cite any because it doesn’t exist even the long term affect for FDA approved Nicotine Replacement Products (NRPs). The medical philosophy is why ask why, anything beats smoking. This could be true, thus the choice to go with e-cigs is obvious. There are personal testimonials, and my personal experience with literally making the leap from real smoking to a personal vaporizer, and still having one cig from the pack I bought the day before I got this unapproved NRP.

    But no, the “rational choice” is to have the people trying to quit use their viable solution that mimics smoking so closely they don’t even have to think about quitting, to put them literally in the same area as those still smoking, tempted by free cigs they could bum, the dangerous second hand exposure, and stink as if they actually smoked.

    Guiding social mores are not the domain of the DOH. Addressing health issues is, and this is a huge one. Give us objective medical evidence about the risks of personal vaporizers (e-cigs), and let us make the informed choice whether those risks are acceptable. To date, the general medical opinion is anything and everything beats actual smoking.

  12. KBrown on May 10th, 2011 9:52 pm

    Also agree that no nicotine products should be sold to minors.

    I guess we better ban the drinking of pop outside of bars since pop cans could be confused with beer cans.

    The reasoning behind the ban is illegal. The only way it’s legal to ban electronic cigarettes, is if it is a health or safety risk to others. Since it’s not, the ordinance is illegal.

    I’m thinking that the loss of revenue from taxes on tobacco has more to do with this than anything. If the department of health and safety is discouraging a safer alternative, health and safety is obviously not the real concern here.

  13. Cbram on September 21st, 2011 12:08 am

    I am so dissapointed to find this out today. I just ordered my first e cig about an hour ago and felt so proud that I am thinking about my future health and doing something great. Now I just learned that King County banned them?!!!?? This makes no sense…So now those who are using e-cigs to stop smoking have to go stand in a cloud of tobacco smoke so they can be tempted to continue smoking. THIS ISN”T JUST A BAN ON E CIGARETTES THIS IS A BAN ON PUBLIC HEALTH!!!! I have never seen a kid with an e cigarette. Most kids smoke real cigarettes because they think they are cool therefore to them, quitting or smoking e cigs is not cool. Not to mention, they usually don’t have enough money for an e cig. This seems like common sense to me. The only reason that I can come up for these idiots putting a ban on e cigs is that the tobacco companies are losing money and the government is losing money on tobacco taxes.

    Honestly, I think this ban is so rediculous that it could not be enforced. I dont see anyone getting a ticket or what not for trying to quit smoking and I think most people will ignore this bullshit.

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