Tacoma, WA - The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health may have been surprised Monday night by the crowd that filled their meeting room, waiting for their chance to speak regarding proposed regulation changes to the Environmental Health Code.
One particular proposed regulation, "Environmental Health Code, Chapter 9: Restrictions on Sale, Use and Availability of Electronic Smoking Devices and Unregulated Nicotine Delivery Products," has sparked controversy because it "prohibits smoking and the purchase of e-cigarettes and other unregulated nicotine delivery products by youth under age 18, disallows e-cigarettes to be used in public places and anywhere that regular cigarettes are prohibited and prohibits free or heavily discounted e-cigarettes."
E-cigarettes are battery operated devices which vaporize a liquid solution of water, propylene glycol and food flavoring and are available with or without nicotine. Because the devices do not burn tobacco, many smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking now use them as a reduced-harm alternative to traditional cigarettes and argue that there is no justification to ban their use in public spaces.
The majority who attended, some of whom drove hours from other parts of the state to attend the meeting, spoke in opposition of the proposed regulation. They were largely organized by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) and local e-cigarette seller Kim Thompson, owner of The Vaporium in Lakewood. Only two in the room spoke in support of the proposal.
While the group universally supported banning sales of e-cigarettes to those under age 18, they spoke passionately about their positive experiences with e-cigarettes and urged the board to use caution when considering regulation of a product which has not been shown to be a danger to the public.
CASAA Director Thad Marney traveled from Portland, Oregon to speak on behalf of the local members of CASAA, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about reduced harm alternatives to smoking. Marney explained that the vast majority of harms associated with tobacco use come from combustion, including carbon monoxide and tar, which the FDA did not find in its testing of e-cigarettes. "At this point, no one has documented anything in the vapor itself that could be harmful to bystanders," he said.
The Board of Health may vote on these regulations at the June 1, 2011 Board of Health meeting and the Health Department said it is interested in receiving feedback from the community prior to that date. To provide written feedback on the proposed regulations, there is a public input form, which can be found here: http://www.tpchd.org/health-wellness-1/tobacco-prevention-control/tobacco-regulations/submit-comment/
More information on e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction may be found on CASAA's web site at http://casaa.org/.