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‘Think Again, Pierce County’ about health effects of e-cigarettes

July 23, 2015

Health Department launches educational campaign to share facts, gather input on possible regulations

TACOMA, Wash. – Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department wants you to “Think Again, Pierce County,” when it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping.

To reach people with health information about e-cigarettes and their dangerous effects on youth, the Health Department launched an educational campaign earlier this week that includes a web site, www.thinkagainpiercecounty.com, billboards, advertising on Comcast and Click!, Pierce Transit bus and shelter ads, movie theater ads and a Facebook page.

“Nicotine is addictive, and e-cigarettes are nicotine-delivery vehicles,” said Director of Health Anthony L-T Chen, MD, MPH. “People who start using nicotine products when they are young are likely to become addicted for life, and tobacco companies are cultivating a sustainable market for their product,” said Chen.

E-Cig Marketing Targets Youth
Much about the relatively new e-cigarette technology remains untested, unproven and unregulated, even while those under 18 are using them in record numbers. Currently one in five Pierce County 10th graders uses these products - double the number who smokes cigarettes, according to the 2014 Healthy Youth Survey.

According to the investigative report, Gateway to Addiction? A Survey of Popular Electronic Cigarette Manufacturers and Marketing to Youth, in 2013, tobacco companies spent $59.3 million on marketing e-cigarettes and doubled spending over the prior year. “Stores on every street corner are advertising and selling e-cigarettes and e-juice,” said Chen. “The stores and manufacturers want youth to think that these products are cool and safe. They are not.”

Education and Outreach Underway
The Health Department is making a much smaller investment of $85,000 over the next eight weeks to get people to think more carefully about these so-called alternative tobacco products. The Department is also conducting surveys at local community events such as National Night Out and meeting with local community groups and officials to get input on possible local regulations to limit youth access to e-cigarettes and vaping.

The Board of Health will consider implementing more stringent local regulations on e-cigarettes later this fall. “Unfortunately, the state legislature failed to pass measures that would protect our youth from e-cigarettes, but our local Board of Health is not going to wait to protect our youth,” said Pierce County Council Member and Board of Health Vice Chair Rick Talbert. “We are concerned about the alarming rate at which youth are choosing to use nicotine delivery products and the potential impact on their health,” he said.

Those under 18 are prohibited from purchasing e-cigarette products. But enforcement of this regulation is not funded in Pierce County, and many stores are selling these products regardless of a buyer’s age. Nicotine is harmful to youth because it is addictive and impacts normal brain development. E-cigarette juices come in a variety of flavors such as chocolate and cotton candy that are meant to appeal to kids.

Under the Health Department’s 2011 Smoking in Public Places regulation, “owners, or in the case of leased or rented space, the lessee or other person in charge, may permit electronic smoking devices in places of employment that are not public places; retail establishments that exclusively sell or promote electronic smoking devices; and public places where minors are lawfully prohibited, such as bars, taverns and casinos.” The Health Department’s Electronic Smoking Devices (e-cigarette) regulations describe enforcement measures. For accurate, up-to-date information about e-cigarettes, see www.tpchd.org/ecigarettes.

About Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department: Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s mission is to safeguard and enhance the health of the communities of Pierce County. As part of its mission, the Health Department tackles known and emerging health risks through policy, programs and treatment in order to protect public health. Learn more at www.tpchd.org.

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