Health board unanimously approves e-cigarette regulations in Pierce County

The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health unanimously approved new e-cigarette and vaping regulations Nov. 18.

The goal of these new regulations is to limit e-cigarette use by minors and to protect the public from second-hand smoke exposure, according to a press release from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Starting Jan 1, 2016, the use of e-cigarettes in public places or places of work will be prohibited. Originally, bans on e-cigarettes and other vaping devices in the workplace were optional and up to the discretion of the employer.

The original regulations prohibited sampling in e-cigarette retail stores, but the Board of Health passed an amendment allowing sampling if the retail meets a myriad of conditions, including; the retial store exclusively sells e-cigarette and vaping products; the retial store has an adequate ventilation system; the customer is over 18 years of age; and the samples are nicotine-free.

Additionally, minors will be prohibited from possessing vapor products. This is in addition to current regulations passed in 2011 which prohibit selling e-cigarettes and vapor products to minors.

Vapor stores will be required to have an annual permit to allow them to sell vaping products. These permits will cost approximately $375.

Stores that wish to provide samples to customers will pay approximately $200 more for the license, plus lab costs for random e-cigarette juice testing.

Finally, child resistant packaging will be required for e-cigarette liquid, a product that contains liquid nicotine in various concentrations.

Is second-hand vapor harmful?

Whether or not second-hand vapor is harmful to people who breathe it is still hotly debated.

The nonsmoking group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights claim the vapor released from e-cigarettes is not benign, while Vape About It, a website that advocates the use of vaping, has quoted a study that claims second-hand vapor is less harmful than a normal exhale of air.

One study shows e-cigarette vapor contains various toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, but the chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor are at levels between 9 and 450 times lower than in traditional cigarette smoke, which could mean e-cigarette use may “substantially reduce exposure to selected tobacco-specific toxicants,” the study reads.

Another study measured the amount of metals found in second-hand vapor, with the hypothesis that the metals are derived from various components of the vapor device. This study found second-hand vapor contained particles tin, silver, nickel, aluminum, silicate and chromium in various sizes, and the concentration of the majority of these metals are at levels higher in second-hand vapor than in traditional cigarette smoke.

“Many of the elements identified in EC (e-cigarette) aerosol are known to cause respiratory distress and disease,” the study wrote, concluding there needs to be improved quality control in vaping products.

Although the potential dangers of second-hand vapor are still being studied, the majority of studies seem to agree that second-hand vapor is less harmful overall than second-hand smoke.