King County Mulls Plan to Ban Public Smoking of E-Cigarettes, Despite the Fact that Almost Nobody Smokes Them

Be honest, if you had a dime for every time someone whipped out an "e-cigarette" at a bar, restaurant or other public place and subjected you to second-hand, electrically-vaporized nicotine mist, how many dimes would you have? Because I'd have zero.

Still, the P-I reported Monday night that King County officials are set to consider legislation this week that would ban e-cigarette "smoking" (it's more like "vaporing") from indoor public places and to put further restrictions on their sale, making King County home to the strictest rules on e-cigarettes in the country.

For those people who have never seen or heard of an e-cigarette (of whom there are likely plenty) they're like regular cigarettes, only instead of tobacco, paper, filters and fire, they use "flavor cartridges," "atomization chambers," lithium batteries and "smart chip controllers" to simulate smoking--only with an exhalation of short-lasting vapor instead of smoke.


Sometimes people put nicotine in their cartridges, sometimes they don't.

But mainly, the devices are good for ravers who want use the fruity flavors and LED-lit tip in furtherance of their trips, and seasoned smokers who want to fool themselves into thinking they're still smoking when, really, they're half way to cold turkey.

A quick phone survey of bartenders in Seattle--people who are most likely to be faced with the flaunting of the indoor smoking ban--seems to confirm two things: yes, bartenders have heard of e-cigarettes, and no, they've never been a problem.

Michael Lutz bartender at 611 Supreme in Capitol Hill, for example, tells Seattle Weekly that, at most, he'll see three of them in a week. Kyle Larsen, who works behind the bar at Tini Bigs on Lower Queen Anne, says he's seen three or four in the last four months. And Amber Walsh, bartender at Rendezvous downtown, says she's never seen one, period--although she adds that "I think my friend might have one, but I'm not sure."

Regardless, Bud Nicola, King County Board of Health member, tells the P-I that the reason behind seeking the added e-cigarette regulations is because people might think others are smoking. And we all know the dangers of second-hand thinking.

"The idea is that even though they're not exactly identical to cigarettes, people see folks using e-cigarettes, and they think somebody else is smoking. It makes it very difficult for inspectors."

Oh, were we making things "difficult for inspectors," Bud? Then by all means, ban away.

The point is, perhaps, that in order to ban or otherwise harshly regulate something, it typically has to move beyond the level of being a kooky fad that most self-respecting people wouldn't admit, to and into the level of some kind of public problem. And until King County e-cigarette users start blowing mist in people's faces and ruining their nights and/or giving them cancer en masse, it's probably best we cool it on banning things for a bit.

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