Yakima city officials will consider Tuesday banning electronic cigarettes from public places where smoking is currently banned.
The proposed ordinance also includes marijuana vaporizers, which can have a similar appearance to the electronic devices used for “vaping” nicotine-infused liquid.
Marijuana use is now legal in Washington state but not in public spaces. City Manager Tony O’Rourke said the staff wanted to include marijuana vaporizers under the ordinance because of their subtle appearance and the lack of an odor emitted from the vapor.
“That’s just another significant reason to regulate this delivery system,” O’Rourke said.
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The vapor emitted by e-cigarettes dissipates much faster than cigarette smoke, but there are no conclusive studies on whether it has harmful secondhand effects.
Industry advocates say no chemicals are emitted in the vapor, just nicotine. Opponents of public e-cigarette use, including Councilwoman Maureen Adkison, say the vapor includes carcinogenic chemicals similar to what’s in cigarette smoke.
“Number one, there are carcinogens involved, and number two, I don’t want the illusion that, around children especially, smoking is OK,” Adkison said.
Councilwoman Kathy Coffey said she’s not sure how she’ll vote on the ordinance, but she worries a ban might be overreaching.
“I think we’re getting over-exuberant as far as our policies on banning things,” Coffey said. “My opinion is there are more important things we should be spending our energy on.”
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill making it a gross misdemeanor to sell or give minors such “vapor products,” but there is no state law governing where those over the age of 18 can use them.
Several states and cities have already instituted such bans for e-cigarettes in public spaces.
The ordinance would require e-cigs to be used at least 25 feet from wherever smoking is banned, including parks and buildings that are open to the public. That is the same standard set for tobacco products.