The Whatcom County Council has unanimously voted to ban vaping and e-cigarettes in many public places, including buildings, restaurants and within 25 feet of entrances. The ban will be an extension of Washington’s Smoking in Public Places law and begins Thursday, Nov. 10.
The council cited a significant increase in youth usage of e-cigarettes in their decision after 26 percent of 12th graders claimed they had used products like vaporizers in 2014. According to the ordinance, the lack of regulations prohibiting vaping sent a mixed message to youths and had potential to renormalize nicotine use. Secondhand smoke was also a major contributor to the decision.
The ban already applies to buildings on Western’s campus. Smoking and vaping are still allowed in designated outdoor areas on campus.
This initiative was part of a new “health in all policies” agenda adopted by the council, which seeks to look at all county projects with public health as a primary concern.
“I felt really good about going into this tonight knowing that it had been vetted very well,” County Councilmember Barry Buchanan said.
Scientific analysis by the United State Food and Drug Administration found that particles emitted by vapor products contain particles of solvents, flavorings and chemical byproducts can negatively impact health, according to the Whatcom County Council ordinance.
“We need to treat e-cigarettes the same way we treat regular cigarettes.”
Western sophomore Elizabeth Winters said the ban could have unintended consequences.
“I think it could be harmful for people who are trying to quit smoking,” Winters said. “That’s what a lot of people who vape use it for.”
E-cigarettes have not been approved as an aid to quit smoking by the United States Food and Drug Administration, according to the ordinance.
“I think at this stage in our civilization it’s just absurd that we don’t do more to discourage the use of tobacco and cigarettes particularly amongst minors,” Councilmember Rud Browne said.
The council conducted multiple surveys to gauge public opinion on the issue, ultimately finding that clean air and healthy youth were top priorities.
Members of the public were invited to speak during the meeting and voice approval or disapproval of the ban.
“We need to treat e-cigarettes the same way we treat regular cigarettes,” Wendy Harris, a Bellingham resident, said.
The new ordinance will apply to all of Whatcom County’s cities and jurisdictions. The Whatcom County Council meets twice monthly, convening next on Tuesday, Oct. 25.