Indoor Air Act goes into effect May 1
PARKERSBURG – As of May 1 all establishments will be covered by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department’s Clean Indoor Air Act regulations, no exceptions.
Smoking will be regulated, after May 1, in the remaining facilities that were not covered originally. These include designated hotel and motel rooms rented to guests, conference or meeting rooms or public and private assembly rooms of hotels and motels while these places are being used for private functions, conference or meeting rooms or public and private assembly rooms of fraternal organizations while these places are being used for private functions in addition to all the facilities covered under the original regulation.
Anyone who controls any establishment described in the regulations can declare such an establishment non-smoking. Newly constructed establishments or those acquired by a change of ownership, going into business must be smoke-free facilities.
Twenty-four West Virginia counties eliminated smoking in all enclosed workplaces and 15 have amended their ordinances to eliminate the use of electronic smoking devices anywhere traditional smoking is banned, according to officials with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
“The last change to the regulation was to remove all exemptions. At this time the term electronic cigarette was added, although the definition of smoking already covered electronic cigarettes,” said Jamie Jacobsen, regional tobacco prevention specialist with the health department.
In the past year, e-cigarette businesses opened in Belpre, Vienna and Marietta, and owners say the new form of cigarette is an alternative for those who want to stop smoking cigarettes.
E-cigarette advocates say the vapor exhaled from the battery-powered e-cigarettes does not contain the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
But health department officials take another view.
“There are currently very few studies that have been conducted on e-cigarettes. It is expected that the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) will begin regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products in the near future,” Jacobsen said. “The e-cigarettes have a vapor. There are very few studies, but some studies do show that e-cigarettes release chemicals similar to cigarettes in the vapor.
“They cannot be used in any public place. Many cities and states are beginning to add e-cigarettes to their regulations,” Jacobsen said.
The department’s original Indoor Clean Air Act was passed in 2005. In March of last year, the health department board revised its policy to clarify the use of e-cigarettes as part of the ordinance. According to the department records, the vote for the clarification was 6 in favor, 5 against.
According to the FDA, the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes has not been fully studied.
“Unfortunately people believe that e-cigarettes are beneficial in quitting smoking. The truth is that the e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, the addictive ingredient found in tobacco products. Even though a person quits smoking, he or she will likely still be using the e-cigarette to satisfy the nicotine addiction,” Jacobsen said.
Tonya Hicks, who with her husband owns an e-cigarette businesses, notes while the amount of nicotine in the product can vary, the vapor that is exhaled is more like a steam vapor and is not “second-hand smoke” like from a cigarette. “It’s an alternative to smoking, that’s what a lot of our customers are using it for,” she said during an earlier interview with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel.
“They are not regulated by the FDA yet, but every product that is in the electronic cigarettes is FDA-grade. I have MSD (Material Safety Data) sheets for every ingredient which is listed on every bottle of the product used in the e-cigarettes,” Hicks said. She said customers can get the e-cigarette product without any nicotine in it.
The e-cigarettes run on a rechargeable battery. An atomizer vaporizes the solution and a cartridge filled with liquid.
A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the use of e-cigarettes among Americans has quadrupled from 2009 to 2010, resulting in nearly 3 million adult users.
According to the National Association of Local Boards of Health, “currently little scientific evidence is available to illustrate that electronic cigarettes are effective cessation devices.”
The Boards of Health position statement notes other smoking cessation products such as nicotine gum and nicotine replacement therapies are regulated.
The act also states: “In any dispute arising under this regulation, the concerns of the non-smoker shall be given precedence.”
Efforts continue in other areas, such as outdoor parks, according to Jacobsen.
The Wood County Healthy Community Coalition, Roane County Anti-Drug Coalition, Ritchie County Substance Abuse Coalition, Pleasants County Wellness Coalition, Calhoun County Substance Abuse Coalition, and Wirt County Healthy Families/Healthy Children Coalition are working on additional areas such as parks and other recreation areas.
“Parks and recreational areas are designed to promote community wellness. Enacting tobacco-free policies in these areas will save money because maintenance workers won’t have to spend time cleaning up tobacco litter and can focus on more important things,” Jacobsen said.
Jacobsen said tobacco-free policies protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke, establish a community norm that tobacco use is not an acceptable behavior, promote positive role modeling, and help break the connection between tobacco use and sports.
“We already have some parks and even county fairs that have adopted tobacco-free policies in the Mid-Ohio Valley Region and many more across the state,” Jacobsen said.
Health department officials routinely inspect facilities that are permitted by the health department.
“We also conduct complaint-driven investigations,” she said.
Jacobsen said compliance has been going well.
She said she only received one call since the last changes in the Clean Indoor Air Act questioning the inclusion of electronic cigarettes.
“I have also received calls from businesses to confirm that the electronic cigarettes were covered by the regulation. I haven’t received many comments, negative or positive. I occasionally receive complaints of people using electronic cigarettes indoors. After receiving a complaint, the facility is contacted and made aware of the situation and the regulation. At this point it’s really just education,” Jacobsen said.
For more information on the act go online at MOVHD.com.