[Washington] ~ “Think Again, Pierce County,” Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department wants you think when it comes to electronic cigarettes and vaping. In order to help you “Think Again”, and to reach out to people with health information regarding e-cigarettes and their dangerous effects on youth, the Health Department launched an educational campaign earlier this week that includes a web site, billboards, advertising on Comcast and Click!, Pierce Transit buses and even going so far as, shelter ads, movie theater ads and a Facebook page.
“Nicotine is addictive, and e-cigarettes are nicotine-delivery vehicles,” said Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH, Director of Health. “People who start using nicotine products when they are young are likely to become addicted for life, and tobacco companies are cultivating a sustainable market for their product.”
Electronic Cigarettes Targeting Youth
Most of the relatively new e-cig technology remains untested, unproven and unregulated, all the while, those under 18 are using them in record numbers. Currently one in five Pierce County 10th graders uses some form of vaporizer; double the number of 10th graders that smokes cigarettes, according to the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey.
According to an 2013 investigative report, Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth, tobacco companies spent $59.3 million on marketing e-cigarettes and doubled spending over the prior year. “Stores on every street corner are advertising and selling e-cigarettes and e-juice,” said Chen. “The stores and manufacturers want youth to think that these products are cool and safe. They are not.”
Outreach & Education Underway
The Health Department, while making a much smaller investment of $85,000 over the next eight weeks, wants to get people to think more carefully about these so-called alternative tobacco products. The Department will also be conducting surveys at local community events such as National Night Out and meeting with local community groups and officials to get their input on possible local regulations limiting youth access to electronic cigarettes and vaping.
The Board of Health will consider implementing more stringent local regulations on e-cigarettes later this fall. “Unfortunately, the state legislature failed to pass measures that would protect our youth from e-cigarettes, but our local Board of Health is not going to wait to protect our youth,” said Rick Talbert, Pierce County Council Member and Board of Health Vice Chair. “We are concerned about the alarming rate at which youth are choosing to use nicotine delivery products and the potential impact on their health.”
Those under 18 are prohibited from purchasing e-cigarette products, but enforcement of this regulation is not funded in Pierce County, and many stores are selling these products regardless of a buyer’s age.
Under the Health Department’s 2011 Smoking in Public Places regulation, “owners, or in the case of leased or rented space, the lessee or other person in charge, may permit electronic smoking devices in places of employment that are not public places; retail establishments that exclusively sell or promote electronic smoking devices; and public places where minors are lawfully prohibited, such as bars, taverns and casinos.” The Health Department’s Electronic Smoking Devices regulations describe enforcement measures. For accurate, up-to-date Pierce County information about e-cigarettes see their website.