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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Electronic cigarettes in King County

Electronic smoking devices and unapproved nicotine delivery products regulation

On 12/16/10, the King County Board of Health passed a regulation restricting the sale and use of electronic smoking devices (e-cigs, vape pens or similar devices) and unapproved nicotine delivery products (nicotine e-juices/e-liquids). This county-wide regulation went into effect on 1/15/11 and will promote the public's health by preventing youth from nicotine addiction and preserving our public spaces as smoke-free. King County Board of Health Code 19.12 includes the following provisions.

  • Prohibits selling electronic smoking devices or liquid nicotine to minors under age 18.
  • Prohibits sampling, offering free or nominal cost electronic smoking devices or liquid nicotine.
  • Prohibits use of electronic smoking devices in public places/places of employment (same as smoking laws)

What are electronic smoking devices and e-juices?

Electronic smoking devices come in a variety of styles and names that include e-cigarettes, e-hookah, vape pens, and personal vaporizers. Most of these products resemble cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. These devices operate by vaporizing a solution containing nicotine, flavors and other chemicals that is inhaled by the user. Many of these products allow the user to refill the spent cartridge with liquid nicotine, otherwise known as e-liquid or e-juice.

electronic cigarette devices and e-juices

Health concerns

E-cigarettes are unregulated and pose a potential risk to users. They can contain harmful substances, such as propylene glycol and nicotine.

  • Nicotine is toxic, highly addictive and has negative effects on brain development in adolescence.
  • Refilling cartridges may increase risk of nicotine exposure via inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact.
  • Nicotine content may vary and not deliver the content advertised on the label.
  • Short and long-term effects to users and non-users (through secondhand smoke) are unknown.

Marketing to kids

Youth e-cigarette use

E-cigarettes are popular among youth. National use rate among high school students doubled in one year (4.7% in 2011 and 10% in 2012.) According to the 2012 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey:

  • About 19,000 youth in Washington State said they used an e-cigarette in 2012. Of those, about 6,000 did not smoke any other tobacco products.
  • Every day, 19 youth begin using e-cigarettes.
  • In the last 30 days, 2% of eighth graders, 4% of 10th graders and 7% of 12th graders used e-cigarettes.

Not proven effective as cessation aid

E-cigarette advocates often say that e-cigarettes help them quit cigarette smoking. However, there are no long-term, population level studies that support this claim.

  • Unlike several regulated cessation aids (e.g. nicotine patch), e-cigarettes are unregulated and do not have consistent levels of nicotine.
  • A recent study shows the use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may even encourage conventional cigarette use among adolescents.