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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Electronic cigarettes in King County

Electronic cigarettes are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine - the highly addictive substance in tobacco. On 12/16/10, the King County Board of Health passed an ordinance making it illegal to:

  • sell e-cigarettes to minors
  • offer free or discounted e-cigarettes
  • use e-cigarettes in any area where smoking is prohibited by law

This county-wide ordinance, which went into effect on 1/15/11, will promote the public's health by preventing youth from nicotine addiction and preserving our public spaces as smoke-free.

What are electronic cigarettes?

  • Battery-operated devices deliver nicotine vapor to mimic cigarette smoking
  • Made of a cartridge filled with flavoring and various strengths of liquid nicotine
  • Can cost as little as $10, but a starter kit is typically available for $50 to $100
  • Not regulated or approved for use in tobacco cessation by the FDA

Why did the Board of Health ban e-cigarette sales to youth?

  • E-cigarettes may appeal to youth because of:
    • high-tech design
    • placement in mall kiosks, convenience stores and online
    • wide array of flavor cartridges, including fruit punch, chocolate and mint
  • Use of e-cigarettes among youth can increase nicotine addiction and may lead to use of conventional tobacco products

Why aren't e-cigarettes a safe alternative to smoking?

  • Testing by the FDA1 found products that:
    • Contained diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze that is toxic to humans
    • Contained human carcinogens (half of the samples tested)
    • Misrepresented of nicotine level
    • Had poor product quality control
  • Companies continue to claim that e-cigarettes are a safe and effective way to quit using tobacco, without FDA approval or product testing
  • Most e-cigarettes don't have health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes

For more information, call 206-296-7613.

This fact sheet is also available in PDF format.


1 U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 04/13/2011.