Should vaping in public go up in smoke?

E-cigarettes are largely unregulated

A young man vapes at a kiosk in the Westfield Vancouver Mall, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A young man vapes at a kiosk in the Westfield Vancouver Mall, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN 6) — Whenever Michael Hamberg went to the Westfield Vancouver Mall, he’d see vapor rising from the e-cigarette kiosk.

The kiosk attendants, he said, “were always blowing vapors in the air.” He said the vapor caused him throat irritation and he was worried about the impact on his two young daughters.

“I was just kind of concerned about my family being there with the health issues,” he said.

He said he tried to contact the Westfield Vancouver Mall’s management about the issue, but “I haven’t got a response.”

The marketing director for the mall declined an interview and had no comment on the topic when contacted by KOIN 6 News.

The owner of the Life-Wise Vapor kiosk in the mall also had no comment for KOIN 6 News.

The law

A young man vapes at a kiosk in the Westfield Vancouver Mall, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
A young man vapes at a kiosk in the Westfield Vancouver Mall, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Washington’s law regarding smoking in public places passed in 2005. It does not ban e-cigarettes, which appeared on the market about two years later.

The Washington Department of Health said it’s up to local governments to make the call about e-cigarettes. King, Pierce and Grant counties, plus Pasco City, don’t allow vaping indoors.

“Vancouver doesn’t have that kind of ban,” said Paul Davis of the tobacco prevention control section of the Washington Department of Health. “We do get a number of calls asking why is it that people can use these products.”

An employee of the Life-Wise Vapor kiosk told KOIN 6 News some of the liquids are infused with caffeine and melatonin.

Davis thinks that’s a problem.

“I think when you have a chemical that people are inhaling into their lungs and it’s a psychoactive chemical and it doesn’t have any regulation or any protection or prevention for kids, that’s a cause for concern.”

Proposed legislation

Flavored products for e-cigarettes, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Flavored products for e-cigarettes, December 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

There are five proposed bills in Washington and seven in Oregon about vaping in this upcoming legislative session. Most of those are about regulating e-cigarettes to prevent minors from easily accessing them. (A list of the proposed legislation is listed at the bottom of this article.)

But there is nothing in the proposed legislation to stop vaping indoors.

In Vancouver, the use of any tobacco product in a park is punishable by law with a fine of up to $1,000.

Mayor Tim Leavitt told KOIN 6 News he just heard about the indoor vaping at the Westfield Vancouver Mall and he said the city will now consider banning indoor vaping.

“Our city manager has been tasked with doing some research,” Leavitt said.

Clark County Councillor Tom Mielke had no idea vaping was allowed in the mall. “I’m really surprised because that’s an indoor area,” he said.

Mielke told KOIN 6 News Clark County will likely pass an ordinance preventing vaping in public places “probably within a month or two.”

PSU Study

Portland State University professors Dr. James Pankow and Dr. David Peyton published studies in the New England Journal of Medicine about vaping (KOIN 6 News)
Portland State University professors Dr. James Pankow and Dr. David Peyton published studies in the New England Journal of Medicine about vaping (KOIN 6 News)

Portland State University professors Dr. James Pankow and Dr. David Peyton published studies in the New England Journal of Medicine about vaping.

Pankow studied flavor chemicals in vaping liquids and said they are not safe for inhaling. In some of the liquids, the study found the flavorant level is very high.

“Anyone who is around an e-cigarette user is being exposed to the same chemicals as the user, and it’s not just water vapor. It’s all the chemicals and the flavorants,” Pankow told KOIN 6 News. “It’s a class of chemical, an aldehyde, are known respiratory irritants.”

Peyton’s study discovered a carcinogen.

“We saw up to 15 times as much formaldehyde as one study saw in cigarette smoke,” he said.

The researchers said they have found several more health concerns in e-cigarettes and plan to publish more studies in the next few months.

KOIN 6 News asked several e-cigarette manufacturers about their products, but they declined to be interviewed.

However, Phil Daman, the chairman and president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, said he was familiar with the recent research.

“The study was in no way, shape or form designed to examine whether or not electronic cigarettes were more harmful than smoking,” Daman told KOIN 6 News.

The concerned parent

Michael Hamberg hopes the Vancouver city leaders follow suit so no vaping will be inside the mall.

“It seems like a family environment like a mall, they shouldn’t have something like that,” he said.

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PROPOSED LEGISLATION THIS UPCOMING SESSION

WASHINGTON SB 5124: Prohibits sale of vapor products to minors

OREGON SB 190: Prohibits person from shipping or transporting or causing to be shipped or transported cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products unless person is licensed distributor or retailer

OREGON 340: Defines “inhalant delivery system.” Amends laws concerning sale of tobacco products to, and use of tobacco products by, minors so those laws equally apply to inhalant delivery systems.

OREGON SB 415: Relating to flavored tobacco products; declaring an emergency. Prohibits distributing, selling or allowing to be sold flavored tobacco products or flavored inhalant delivery system products in this state

OREGON SB 417: Requires premises where person makes retail sales of tobacco products and inhalant delivery systems to be licensed by Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

OREGON HB 2074: Expands definition of tobacco products for purpose of taxation to include electronic cigarettes and nicotine solution

OREGON HB 2134: Expands definition of “tobacco products” for purpose of taxation to include electronic cigarettes and nicotine solution.

OREGON HB 2546: Defines “inhalant delivery system.” Amends laws concerning sale of tobacco products to, and use of tobacco products by, minors so those laws equally apply to inhalant delivery systems.

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