HUNTINGTON — With only one person speaking in opposition to the regulation, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department Board of Health unanimously adopted a regulation Wednesday evening banning the use of electronic cigarettes, or vapes, in public spaces such as restaurants and even vape shops.
Modeled after the Clean Indoor Air Regulation, which bans smoking products like cigarettes, cigars or pipes in public places including bars and workplaces, the new regulation bans the use of vape products — which heat a solution containing nicotine — in similar places. Dr. Michael Kilkenny, medical director of the health department, said if a public space has three walls and a ceiling, it’s included in the regulation.
“This is an important step for the health of the people in Cabell County, especially with the onset of the knowledge of what goes in a vaping machine could contain any number of chemicals that is unregulated,” Kilkenny said. “To protect people from what may be in those is important.”
The health department will investigate complaints of violations to the regulation and work to educate and correct businesses. The department also has the authority to levy fines or remove health permits for violations. The regulation goes into effect in 30 days.
During a public hearing for the regulation before the regular board meeting, Michael Nance, 37, of Huntington, said he opposed the ban because it would hurt business, specifically vape shops. He said he agreed with banning vaping in restaurants and workplaces, however.
Kilkenny said the regulation will probably affect vape businesses, which allow testing of products in the store. He said the health department will work with those businesses to figure out a way they can still allow use while also complying with the new regulation.
Nance said he has vaped on and off for the past five years, and it’s helped him quit smoking cigarettes, which has made him healthier overall. He said he has lost nearly 50 pounds, doesn’t eat fast food and sleeps better because he can breathe easier. He said it’s the best solution for those who are trying to quit smoking but still need nicotine.
Dr. Kevin Yingling, board member, said during the meeting that he supports adults using vapes to quit smoking, but teen use is another issue. The board still wants to look into ways it can affect the number of teens who vape.
Along those lines, the board adopted a resolution to permit Kilkenny to advocate on behalf of the board in favor of legislation at the state level to increase the age requirement to purchase tobacco to 21. Though the limit has been increased federally, Kilkenny said there are still reasons states should pass their own legislation.
In approving the vaping regulation, Cabell County now joins Kanawha County as the only two counties in the state to ban vaping in public places. The board received no written comments in favor or against the ban.
In other business, the board voted to appoint Yingling as board president, replacing Donna Rumbaugh.