Washougal should approve vapor device ordinance

The Washougal City Council is considering implementing an ordinance prohibiting the sale to minors of e-cigarettes and hand-held vaporizers or “vape pens,” as they are commonly known.

While adults have a right to choose how they spend their time and money, and be responsible for how those actions impact their health, protecting children from the inherent dangers of getting involved in, and addicted to, these kinds of activities is a serious and timely issue. The City Council is on the right track tackling it head-on.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that include an atomizer that heats a liquid containing nicotine, turning it into a vapor that is inhaled. The vapor cloud resembles cigarette smoke. Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but do contain nicotine — often in large amounts — along with other toxic chemicals. Vape pens operate similarly, and are often used with concentrated marijuana oil.

Recently, the use of e-cigarettes and vape pens has been touted by some as a “safe” alternative to smoking cigarettes. Distributors have even gone so far as marketing it as a way to kick the cigarette habit. But vaping is really simply exchanging one dangerous and potentially deadly vice for another. The FDA has issued warning letters to several distributors of electronic cigarettes for violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, including unsubstantiated claims and poor manufacturing practices. It has also issued a warning about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes.

As detailed in an article in today’s Post-Record, the devices often resemble pens or USB memory sticks — making them easy to disguise. The vapor that comes from the devices also doesn’t have the telltale smell of marijuana or tobacco cigarettes.

Local students and school law enforcement officials are reporting that use of electronic cigarettes and hand-held vaporizers has already become an issue at the high school level. Without any tools in place to deal with the issue, the problem has the potential to become even greater.

It’s time to take action. The Washougal City Council should approve the ordinance that prohibits the distribution or sale of vapor devices to people younger than 18, and the possession of e-cigarettes or their components.

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