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New Products Complicate Enforcement Of State Smoking Ban

Publication Date: 2013-12-17
  • Author:Monica Spain
  • Publication:KPLU

Nearly a decade has passed since Washington state banned smoking in public areas and workplaces. 

But smoking has evolved since, and that leaves health officials with challenges as they try to enforce a law that didn't foresee the rise of new products.

The ban on smoking that took effect in 2005 was pretty straightforward at the time. It covered cigarettes and cigars -- the traditional stuff. But with the landscape changing, health officials tasked with enforcing the ban are doing their best to keep pace. 

"Now we're contending with hookahs, e-cigarettes and soon-to-be [legal] marijuana, so it definitely looks different," said Keri Moore with the Snohomish County Health District...

"We took a hookah lounge to court, and so that used a lot of time and energy, and financial resources to conduct that enforcement action. So that was really our priority," said Moore.

The judge ruled in favor of Snohomish County and shut down the hookah lounge.  Recreational marijuana is shaping up to be the next possible showdown for public health. But the county says a lesson learned from the hookah lounge case is that it needs to work with permitting agencies to ensure businesses that would violate the smoking ban don't open in the first place.

Moore is also concerned with prevention. While the state healthy youth survey shows tobacco use in 10th grade kids is down 25 percent from 1999, "rates of use of hookah and marijuana are actually the same or even higher than their usages of traditional cigarettes," she said...