MOUNT VERNON — The Skagit County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to ban smoking and vaping in public places.
Under the new law, smoking and vaping would be banned within 25 feet of the door of any place of employment and at public spaces where children gather, such as parks and beaches.
“Part of our job is to try and encourage good health,” Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said ahead of the vote.
County Public Health staff have reported that the public ban would reduce harm from second-hand smoke or vapor and serve to model good behavior to young people.
“This (ordinance) says ‘We don’t do it in public. It’s not socially acceptable,’” Julie de Losada, division manager with Public Health’s Clinical Health Partnerships, said at an earlier meeting.
The ban will go into effect in 90 days.
At a public hearing on the issue two weeks ago, the commissioners delayed a vote in order to consider testimony from Raymond Ellis, who works for Galaxy Vapor, a chain of vape shops with a location in Mount Vernon.
Ellis said these stores, which only admit adults and are licensed to only sell vape products, serve as a convenient meeting place for those trying to quit smoking cigarettes and who wish to switch to a product they see as safer.
If the ordinance passed, Ellis said he believed customers wouldn’t be able to use their own vape devices in the store and could only sample vape liquids that don’t have nicotine.
But de Losada said Tuesday that state law permits licensed vape shops to let customers sample vape products with nicotine in them — and use their own devices. The local ordinance does not supercede that, she said.
Commissioner Lisa Janicki said she saw the ordinance as “95 percent correct,” but she was concerned with limiting a business’ ability to decide if people could freely vape.
She said she ultimately decided to support the ordinance to protect the general public from possibly unforeseen effects.
“We’re gonna err on the side of caution,” she said.