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A county-wide ban on vaping in public, excluding dedicated vape shops, moved forward during a Kittitas County Board of Health meeting on Thursday.

The Board of Health directed staff to present an ordinance at a February meeting. There would likely then be a joint Board of Health and Board of County Commissioners public hearing in March before the ban is adopted into county code.

At issue Thursday was whether the ban would apply within dedicated vape shops.

Members on the Board of Health supported a ban on vaping in public areas, but disagreed with banning it inside vape shops.

Dr. John Asriel, a Board of Health member, said there hasn’t been enough research to justify banning the use of electronic cigarettes inside of vape shops.

Though electronic cigarettes are not recognized cessation devices, Asriel said people are using them to quit smoking.

One argument from Kittitas County Department of Health staff has been that normalizing the use of electronic cigarettes, including inside vape shops, could lead to increased use in tobacco products among both adults and youth.

However, Asriel said he isn’t convinced that is the case.

“In my mind, we don’t have enough evidence to say that,” he said.

Board member Rich Elliott said he was concerned about putting up restrictions that could prevent people from using electronic cigarettes, which appear to be less harmful than tobacco products.

“Common sense tells me I’d rather have people use (electronic cigarettes),” he said, adding that more research needs to be done to know for sure.

He said from his point of view, there appeared to be “substantial opposition” to extending the ban into vape shops.

Board members said the county should do what it can to keep minors from using electronic cigarettes.

Under the proposed ordinance, youth would not be allowed to enter vape shops.

The ban will mostly mirror the law that prevents people from smoking cigarettes in public places. Five other counties have similar ordinances.

County Commissioner Obie O’Brien said whether an adult chooses to vape should be his or her choice and that the county doesn’t ban everything that is potentially a public health risk.

He said Americans are free to own guns, drink alcohol and do a plethora of other things that are potentially a public health risk.

“There’s lots of things out there we do that have public health risks,” he said.

The ban will have similar language to Grant County’s ban on vaping in public places.

The ban would requires stores to check ID before selling.

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