By Pat Jenkins
People in Pierce County can breathe easier because of laws against smoking in public places.
And don't you forget it, says the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
The department, as a reinforcement of efforts to keep air free of secondhand smoke, has unveiled an updated no-smoking and no-vaping sign. Its a reminder that both activities are illegal indoors or within 25 feet of entryways, doors or windows. At the bottom of the sign are references to the regulations for smoking and vaping.
“We want to make sure everyone knows the law for their protection and safety,” said Miae Aramori, the Physical Activity, Nutrition and Tobacco program manager for the Health Department. “Secondhand smoke and vapor have toxic chemicals that research has proven to be harmful."
In addition to the new sign, the Health Department uses social media to spread the word about the dangers of smoking and vaping through a new campaign that focuses on young people. The goal of the campaign, which is titled "No Resets," is to engage with youths and be sure they know the health risks from vaping, as well as smoking. Officials said "No Resets" plays on gaming themes and uses videos, pictures and stories to encourage young people to make healthy choices. Unlike in video games, there are no resets in life, the campaign notes.
The Health Department also has an anti-vaping, youth-oriented campaign called Think Again Pierce County. The campaign highlights the new regulations that prohibit the sell to and possession of vapor products by anyone under 18 years old.
The new signs, plus billboards and TV ads, convey the messages of both campaigns.
In November 2015, the county health board approved regulations (which can be read at www.tpchd.org/ecigarettes or www.thinkagainpiercecounty.com) that ban the smoking of e-cigarettes in public places and in workplaces, make it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to have vapor products, and require an annual permit for retailers to sell them.
In addition, child-resistant packaging is required for e-cigarette liquids sold in Pierce County.
Board members, acting on the recommendation of the Health Department, said they hope the new rules will curb vaping among minors and protect the public from secondhand vapor exposure.
The county regulations, which took effect Jan. 1, 2016, are similar to state law that has banned smoking in public places for the past 10 years.
The public can report violations of the regulations and download copies of the new anti-smoking/vapign sign by going online at www.tpchd.org/tobacco, officials said.
The countywide regulations were on top of a local ordinance, approved in 2015 by the Eatonville Town Council, that made Eatonville the third municipality in Washington to ban vaping in public parks. The council members cited health concerns about vaping and said the risks are similar to those of smoking tobacco, which also is prohibited in the town’s parks.
According to health officials, the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes and vapor products may create a new generation of smokers. Officials have claimed that one in five Pierce County 10th-graders use the products—double the number who smoke cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are products that deliver an aerosol containing nicotine (commonly called vapor) to users by heating a solution typically made of nicotine, unknown and potentially toxic chemicals, and flavoring agents, according to health authorities. They say nicotine is harmful to youth because it impacts normal brain development. However, e-cigarettes continue to be marketed in a variety of flavors meant to appeal to youth, including chocolate and cotton candy, officials say.
Proponents of vaping say it can help tobacco smokers kick the smoking habit.
At a public hearing held by the county health board before the county regulations were adopted, 37 people testified on both sides of the vaping issue.
“Nicotine is addictive, and e-cigarettes are nicotine-delivery vehicles,” Dr. Anthony L-T Chen, the Health Department's director of health, said in conjunction with the board's authorization of the anti-vaping regulations. “People who start using nicotine products when they are young are likely to become addicted for life, and tobacco companies are cultivating a sustainable market for their product."
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