Smoking in Public Places Law Anniversary
Smoking in Public Places Law: 10 Year Anniversary Offers Opportunity for Spokane Community to Once Again Rally Around Health
Legislative milestone an opportunity to clarify regulations to prevent vaping device use in public
SPOKANE, Wash. – Dec. 8, 2015 – Ten years have passed since Washington state’s Smoking in Public Places (SIPP) law was implemented. On Dec. 8, 2005, RCW 70.160 went into effect, making it illegal statewide to smoke in all indoor public places and places of employment and within 25ft of doors, windows and ventilation intakes. The law helps protect the public and employees from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Said SRHD Health Officer, Dr. Joel McCullough, “In Washington state and Spokane County, we’ve seen great progress over the past 10 years. Smoking rates and exposure to secondhand smoke decreased significantly—encouraging trends that we can partly attribute to public policies like smoke-free laws.”
Since SIPP’s implementation, Washingtonians and Spokanites benefited significantly:
- The statewide adult smoking rate trended downward for the last 10 years. In Spokane County, the rate dropped from 21 percent to 18.8 percent.
- The statewide smoking rate for 10th grade youth was cut nearly in half from 15 percent to 8 percent. In Spokane County, from 2008 to 2014, the proportion of adolescents who smoked decreased significantly.
- The percentage of adults statewide who report that anyone smoked inside their home decreased from 10 percent to 7 percent.
- In 2014 in Spokane County, 14% of adolescents reported they currently have asthma—a significant decrease from 2008.
- The percentage of 10th graders statewide who report that they were in a room in the past week with someone smoking cigarette has decreased from 48% (2004) to 28% (2014).
"For the past decade, Washingtonians enjoyed the strong protections of our comprehensive, statewide Clean Indoor Air Act. There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and I am proud to live in a state where no one has to choose between their health or their paycheck,” said Mary McHale, Washington government relations director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death, responsible for roughly one-third of all cancer deaths. By affirming our right to breathe clean, smoke-free air, this law protects the health of our state, leading to fewer cancer diagnoses and other chronic illnesses in Washington.”
Passed with broad, statewide support, the law established Washington as the 10th state nationwide to implement a comprehensive smoke-free indoor air law. Today, 24 states have implemented comprehensive smoke-free indoor air laws. Despite this progress in reducing cigarette smoking rates in Washington state and elsewhere over the past decade though, more work needs to be done.
New products are entering the tobacco market, such as vaping devices (also known as electronic cigarettes). Vaping devices are typically used to deliver liquid nicotine and are available in a wide variety of brands, flavors and nicotine strengths. As they grow in popularity so does uncertainty about their safety and confusion among business owners with regard to what the SIPP law applies to.
The health district enforces SIPP in Spokane County via random inspections and in response to complaints by phone, written letter, or through its web site. The health district is working to clarify that vaping devices are included under SIPP. This benefits public safety as the secondhand vapor (aerosol) emitted by the devices contains chemicals and other substances that present a threat to citizen health and an elevated risk to pregnant women, children and people with cardiovascular conditions. To this end, some businesses in Spokane County already implemented policies to prohibit the use of vaping devices, while others see opportunity to clarify SIPP law.
Mark Starr, owner of David’s Pizza in Spokane, was strongly in favor of the law, and like so many others, supported efforts to implement it and is gratified to see how the resulting social norms benefit his staff, patrons and the community. He sees how those norms could be negatively impacted by allowing vaping in public places and places of employment and is concerned.
Said Starr, “Allowing vaping is like condoning smoking. If you are trying to set a good example for children, as well as show respect for others, this clearly doesn’t fit in the picture. Remember that 80 percent of our residents are non–smokers with more and more quitting every day. It should be treated and controlled as is smoking in public places.”
Evidence from multiple peer-reviewed studies, including those conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), indicates that secondhand vapor contains chemicals known to cause cancer such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, lead, nickel and chromium; as well as ultrafine particulates associated with a range of negative health effects including to the lungs and brain.
Including the devices under SIPP aligns with FDA’s concern about the safety of these devices and its impending finalization of rules on the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Further linked to safety concerns, all US states except three have laws that prohibit selling e-cigarettes and vaping products to minors. And in 2015, there were roughly 200 bills introduced across 40 states that addressed some aspect of e-cigarette and vapor product regulation.
Concluded Dr. McCullough, “The overall theme of these efforts is to fold vapor products into existing laws that apply to combustible cigarettes and other tobacco products. This is because vaping products have not been proven safe. If or until they are, the smartest thing we can do is treat them like cigarettes.”
Working to clarify that vaping devices are included under SIPP enforcement in Spokane County will be done by way of a Board of Health resolution. SRHD is currently getting one-on-one feedback from vape shop owners, but all individuals and organizations may participate in the process to adopt this resolution. SRHD is following formal procedures to gather public comment, including hosting a public hearing, Feb. 25, 2016, at 12:30 p.m., at the board’s regularly-scheduled meeting at the health district, 1101 W. College Ave. The board can choose to vote that day or wait to gather further input. Comments will be also accepted by mail or email from Jan. 4, 2016 through Feb. 5, 2016. Comments can be submitted to:
Spokane Regional Health District
1101 W College Ave,
Spokane, WA 99202
For more information, visit www.srhd.org. SRHD’s website offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.