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Board Prohibits Use of E-Cigarettes in County Buildings, Vehicles

March 10, 2015

The Placer County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in county buildings and vehicles.

County staff recommended the action, saying proactive steps are needed to protect the health and safety of county employees and the public until more is known about the potential risks created by e-cigarette vapors.

The use of e-cigarettes has become popular among youths and adults alike, who often consider e-cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking because they contain no tobacco. The habit also is known as vaping because users inhale the vapors from e-cigarettes.

In a report issued last year, the World Health Organization noted that e-cigarettes often are marketed as aids to help people stop smoking. The report found insufficient evidence to conclude whether e-cigarettes help users quit smoking or not. 

The report concluded that legal steps should be taken to end the use of e-cigarettes in indoor workplaces and public gathering places, noting that evidence suggests that exhaled e-cigarette aerosol increases background air levels of some toxicants, nicotine and particles.                                                 

The ban on vaping will be added to a section of the Placer County Code that already prohibits smoking in buildings and vehicles that are owned or leased by the county. Vaping also will not be allowed within specified distances from main entrances, exits and windows that open in county buildings. Vaping will be allowed along with smoking in outdoor areas surrounding county buildings where it is not expressly prohibited by state law or local ordinance.

In a report for Tuesday’s meeting, county staff noted that:

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a proposed rule that would extend the agency’s tobacco authority to cover additional products such as e-cigarettes;
  • A 2014 study published by researchers at Portland State University listed previously unknown toxins as components in the vapor created by alternative cigarettes; and
  • The American Lung Association said last year is it very concerned about potential health risks to e-cigarette consumers.

The Food and Drug Administration defines e-cigarettes as battery-operated devices designed to turn nicotine, flavor and other chemicals into aerosols that are inhaled by users. Most e-cigarettes are made to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars or pipes, but some resemble everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks.

Online, the federal agency reports that e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently do not know:

  • Potential risks when used as intended;
  • How much nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals are inhaled;
  • Whether there are benefits from using e-cigarettes; and
  • Whether e-cigarettes lead young people to try tobacco products such as conventional cigarettes.

The County Public Health Division has a fact sheet that examines e-cigarette myths and potential dangers: Fact Sheet

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