Thurston County in Olympia, WA Bans Vaping in Public Parks


As part of a smoking ban ordinance in Olympia, Washington’s Thurston County. vaping has been banned in the county’s public parks. Comparing smoking cigarettes to vaping is a recurring theme in the arguments of opponents of vaping and vape culture. I’ve spoken about this before and how inaccurate this comparison is. The testing of vaping in a controlled, minimally ventilated environment by the CDPH found that secondhand vapor has negligible risks.

Formaldehyde, the most popularly referenced dangerous chemical referenced in these arguments and which is found in tobacco smoke, was found to be at normal, non-vaping environment, outdoor and indoor levels in the air sample tested by the researchers. Unfortunately, this kind of research is either unknown to the officials who make decisions such as the smoking ban in Thurston County, or just outright ignored. Which it is, I have no clue. What I do know, is that it is beginning to effect vapers to the point they can’t even go into a public park, which they most likely pay taxes for just like any non-vapers there, and vape in peace.

The Anti-Vape Bias

The first thing that is incredibly troubling about this law, is that there appears to be no consistency in the research that correlates smoking with vaping in the reasoning behind the ban. A big push behind the bill came from concern that teenagers and children would begin to pick up bad habits and addictions with vaping being a gateway substance. The source used in this article by The Olympian quotes a 2016 Healthy Youth Survey that contains some rather interesting findings.

According to the survey. It starts off seemingly fair towards vaping statisitcs in the beginning of its report on e-cigarette and vapor product usage. The use of e-cigarettes and vapes was found to have “significantly dropped from 2014 to 2016.” The specific number or percentage is not given. It goes on to state their is still, however, concern for the prevalence in the use of these products and their “association with other tobacco and substance use” by minors.

6% of 10th graders reported using vapes on school property, 32% of those who vaped also smoked cigarettes, and 65% who vaped also used cannabis. Troubling numbers for sure. However, as a concerned uncle myself, I wonder where is the same concern for teenage alcohol use? In an article by CBS News from as recent as 2012, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that 78 percent of teens in the US drank alcohol. 47.1% had begun a habit of drinking in a given one year period. Much like e-cig use, the numbers for this also dropped in the following years. In a more recent study, it is stated that by age 15, 33% of teens have drank alcohol. By age 18, that number increases to 60%. In 2015, 7.7 million youth from the ages of 12-20 reported having drank alcohol in the past month at that time.

In 2016, 38 million American adults smoked cigarettes, roughly 11% of American adults out of a overall population estimate of about 328 million total Americans for the year 2018. 9 million vape, about 2%. When it comes to alcohol, 70% of all Americans reported drinking alcohol in the year leading up to 2015, 56% had drank in the past month. Out of the total population, 12% of Americans are alcoholics. Assuming general use of vapes and cigarettes are considered an addiction in smoking bans, 11% of high school students and 4.3% of middle school students use vapes and e-cigarettes.

Now, we don’t condone teenagers or children vaping or using any substance made legal for solely adult use. So, it seems odd that these same officials aren’t as concerned about the gateway substance that is alcohol.

What’s The True Concern?

I don’t understand these discrepancies in substance bans, I could be blowing things out of proportion. However, as the affects of bans like the one in Olympia are felt in other areas, the use by teens of substances such as cannabis decreases in states such as California, and the abuse of prescription drugs by teeens such as Xanax increases, I think more care should be placed into deciding what is and what is not prohibited but lawyers will have their work cut out in the future.

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