Board members at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department voted unanimously Thursday to ban vaping in public places throughout Kanawha County.
The ordinance was first introduced at last month’s board meeting. Thursday’s vote followed a 30-day public comment period, in which 36 Kanawha County residents responded.
Of those responses, Dr. Sherri Young, director of KCHD, said that 18 were in full support of the ordinance, which bans vaping inside and within 15 feet of entrances to public places, including restaurants, stores and bars.
Two responses were against the ban, and 17 were comments on vaping generally that did not directly address the proposal to limit vaping in public.
“A lot of people voiced that they were able to quit smoking with vaping, but that’s not the issue at hand,” Young said. “This has nothing to do with vaping products, vaping shops or vaping flavors. It’s about vaping in public places.”
Young said she did anticipate more of a response, and remembers in 2007 when the county health department opened a public comment period for the Clean Indoor Air Act regarding tobacco products, including cigarettes.
Then, she said, people had a lot more to say about the limits to smoking.
“I think maybe people already take vaping the same way they do with smoking, though,” Young said. “They’re not doing it a lot where they wouldn’t smoke.”
The ordinance will go into effect immediately, Young said.
Businesses in Charleston will be responsible for placing signs at their establishments prohibiting vaping inside and also near the entrances. If these signs are not displayed by their next building or health inspection, they could be fined.
If someone is caught vaping inside a public place, they will be asked to stop. The ordinance will not be enforced in vape shops, where those who vape often sample products before purchasing, according to owners of area shops.
The change in county law comes as the state Legislature is expected to entertain vaping laws as well, including some that would limit the sale of vaping products.
Nationwide, vaping and its potential threats are influencing and inspiring legislation at all levels of government. Several cities and counties have taken to banning vape products outright, or limiting sales of flavored products, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claims is targeted specifically to children.
In West Virginia, there have been eight cases of vaping-related illnesses, two with ties to Kanawha County. Per state reports, neither of those people were minors.
According to the CDC, many of the people diagnosed with vaping-related illnesses nationwide were using products illegally cut with Vitamin E acetate, a substance commonly used in lotions and other topical products. It is not intended for inhalation, and lungs are not equipped to break it down.
The limit to vaping in public places will most likely not erase this risk. And while people are urged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC to not use any type of tobacco or “nicotine delivery system,” they are especially urged against buying vape cartridges on the black market.