The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health will soon consider new regulations on e-cigarettes and vaping products. The board passed a resolution urging the state Legislature to pass tougher laws to regulate electronic cigarettes last spring. The board must not wait for state action and should adopt the proposed changes to the health code now.
Unfortunately, little science exists about e-cigarettes. However, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory that e-cigarettes are not emission-free. The ultrafine particles include chemicals and can get into the lungs, possibly harming people with lung diseases like asthma. Inhaling secondhand vapors may also be harmful.
By prohibiting vapor products in all public places and work sites, Pierce County would err on the side of caution and protect residents’ health.
E-cigarettes and vapor products are increasingly popular among Pierce County youth, an unsettling trend. A statewide report found that more than 20 percent of 12th-graders had used e-cigarettes. Because the health risks (including short- and long-term effects) of e-cigarettes to users and non-users are not known, it is vital to protect young people from the toxic and highly addictive effects of nicotine.
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The proposed health code prohibiting youth under 18 from possessing vapor products is a common sense approach.
(Primomo, a founding faculty member of the University of Washington Tacoma nursing program, is on the executive committee of the Puget Sound Asthma Coalition.)