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News / Clark County News

Clark County bans e-cigarettes in public places

Specialty vape shops are the only exception

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter
Published: April 29, 2015, 5:00pm

Beginning June 1, the use of electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices will not be allowed anywhere in Clark County where smoking is banned, except for specialty vape shops.

The Clark County Board of Health unanimously approved an ordinance Thursday morning that extends the state Smoking in Indoor Places law to inhalant delivery systems, with the one exception for stores that exclusively sell the devices and their supplies.

“It’s a legal activity. It needs to have some restrictions,” said county Councilor Jeanne Stewart, who serves on the board. “We’ve done that.”

“I think our ordinance is very good,” she added.

Under the ordinance, inhalant delivery devices cannot be used in public places and places of employment, nor can they be used within 25 feet of doors, windows or ventilation intakes. The ordinance does not apply to any product that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale as a tobacco cessation product or for any other therapeutic purpose, such as an inhaler for asthma.

Specialty vape shops can allow customers to try the devices and sample liquid nicotine flavors, but the stores must have independent ventilation systems and mitigation measures that prevent the vapors from making it into neighboring structures.

The county passed an ordinance in June 2011 that banned the sale of electronic vapor devices to minors.

The Board of Health — which is made up of county Councilors Stewart, David Madore and Tom Mielke and has jurisdiction even in cities — first considered the ordinance at a meeting April 22. The original ordinance did not include the exception for vape shops, but the board amended the ordinance after hearing feedback from shop owners and customers.

The board brought the amended ordinance back for further consideration Thursday, and approved it after a dozen people spoke during the public comment period. Nearly all speakers supported the ordinance, though some hoped the board would make additional amendments.

Travis McDonald, owner of DotCom Vapor, whose family owns Hawaiian Vapor in Vancouver, asked the board to reconsider the independent ventilation requirement for vape shops. He questioned whether the vapors could actually seep into neighboring businesses and said the requirement would be a financial burden for small businesses.

After the meeting, McDonald said he would need to do more research to determine whether Hawaiian Vapor would need a new ventilation system in order to comply with the ordinance.

McDonald and others also asked the board to consider extending the exemption to any adult-only business, such as bars and taverns, leaving the decision of whether to allow vaping to the business owners. The board did not discuss the request.

Public health advocates applauded the board for prohibiting vaping in public places, citing the ordinance as a way to prevent kids from being exposed to e-cigarettes and potentially harmful vapors.

Madore said the board didn’t want to restrict anyone’s right to use inhalant delivery systems but had a responsibility to protect the health of others, particularly those who don’t want to be exposed to the vapors. Stewart and Mielke agreed.

“I’d like to err on the side of safety,” Mielke said. “I believe if you are affecting others, you are taking the right away from others.”

Columbian Health Reporter