Electronic cigarettes could soon be as taboo as tobacco within the work sites and public places of unincorporated Napa County.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors wants to add vaping to laws that already ban indoor smoking in certain places. It unanimously declared on Tuesday its intent to amend the county indoor air and health protection code at a future meeting.
During the 1990s, the county passed laws prohibiting smoking in such locations as stores, restaurants, elevators and workplaces in the unincorporated county and in county buildings. But e-cigarettes didn’t exist at the time.
Supervisors want to add e-cigarette devices to the definition of smoking products in the code.
“E-cigarettes are a threat in public health efforts to decrease nicotine use throughout the population,” county Public Health Officer Karen Relucio told supervisors.
Relucio explained how battery-operated e-cigarettes have a cartridge containing liquid that is atomized to create a vapor for inhaling. They come in bright colors that appeal to youth and in various flavors.
She showed a slide with an array of harmful chemicals that might be found in the water vapor. They ranged from benzene to arsenic to chromium to propylene glycol, which she said is a key ingredient in antifreeze.
An American Lung Association release notes that e-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Given the 500 brands and 7,700 flavors, there is no way for health-care professionals or consumers to know for certain what chemicals are in the liquid or how the product might affect health.
But both the American Lung Association and Relucio are concerned, and not only about the health of e-cigarette users. Relucio cited a study showing people exposed to e-cigarette vapor had nicotine absorption equivalent to people exposed to conventional cigarette smoke.
“People who are in a room exposed to secondhand vaping can actually have health risks,” Relucio said.
The American Lung Association wants communities to ban e-cigarette use from work sites and public places. Relucio said 11 counties and 120 cities have done so in California.
Now Napa County is poised to join them, though Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said the board can pass a law only for the unincorporated areas. Local cities that contain most of the work sites and public places would have to pass their own laws.
“This would be a road show eventually,” Wagenknecht told the county health team.
Supervisor Mark Luce agreed.
“Now carry your story to the cities, where it really matters,” Luce urged.
American Canyon a few weeks ago prepared a law to ban businesses that sell e-cigarette products exclusively. American Canyon has no such stores, though the city of Napa does.
Napa County’s proposed indoor smoking law revisions show how the world has grown more complicated since the 1990s. The law as it stands defines “smoking” as “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, weed or plant or other combustible substance whose smoke is intended to be inhaled” – a mere 23 words.
The proposed law adds a 156-word definition of “smoke” that addresses any vapor, gases or particles released as a result of combustion, electrical ignition or vaporization for human inhalation of the byproducts. In doing so, it makes exceptions for such things as burning incense.