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Victory for Electronic Cigarette Advocates: Pierce County rules in favor of use in Bars, Workplaces

Date Posted: June 6, 2011

concerned citizens fight electronic cigarette ban

Concerned citizens show up in support of electronic cigarettes. Credit: Marques Hunter

While numerous States and Counties are actively participating in the banning of smoking in public places, some are now addressing the regulation of e‐cigarette use such as in Pierce County, Washington, where the Tacoma‐Pierce County Health Department ruled in favor of using the battery‐powered devices in certain places such as bars and workplaces. This is a small victory for the electronic cigarette industry but a huge step towards educating a public that seems to have so many pre‐conceived notions on the subject of e‐cigarettes.

In Pierce County, numerous people came before the board to provide their point of view on a proposal that would prohibit the sale of e‐cigarettes to minors and would regulate where the devices could be used by individuals. Initially, the proposal banned e‐cigarettes anywhere that state law prohibits the use of real cigarettes or cigars. Citizens protested the proposed ban and many turned up to speak.

JoAnne Barkley of Spanaway stated, “This e-cigarette has been the only thing I’ve tried that has helped me quit smoking cigarettes,” Barkley said. “It’s helping people. Don’t take this away from us.”

The proposal was revised in favor of a compromise and in the end, the board voted 0‐7 on the proposal and e‐cigarette use will be now be allowed in certain places.

Electronic cigarettes are at the center of an on‐going social and legal debate countrywide over whether they should be banned and regulated in the same manner as conventional cigarettes. Although widely different from cigarettes, e‐cigs are sometimes put in the same category as their tobacco counterparts by some states and counties because e‐cigs resemble cigarettes. State officials list confusion over the device’s similarities to cigarettes and concern to the public as their reasoning behind many proposed bans. However, e‐cigarettes do not burn and don’t give off smoke. They are battery-powered metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a cartridge, creating a water vapor that quickly dissipates.

Tacoma Pierce County electronic cigarette ban

Electronic cigarette supporters in Lakewood show up in support. Photo credit: Margues Hunter

The ruling of the Tacoma‐Pierce County Health Department shows there is progress being made towards educating people on the use of e‐cigs being a smokeless alternative to tobacco products, which also carries the possibility of lessened health risks. This small victory in an ensuing legal debate allows the e‐cigarette industry to remain cautiously optimistic that more states will follow in the steps of Tacoma‐Pierce County.

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