The Monroe City Council directed city staff to draft an administrative policy to discourage smoking and vaping in Monroe city parks last week, based on a recommendation by the Monroe Parks Board.The recommendation was initially presented in April by the Monroe Community Coalition, which presented concerns about the widespread increase in vaping by local students.
The Washington State Department of Health’s 2014 Healthy Youth Survey found one in four Monroe High School seniors considered themselves to be current users of vapor devices, which reflected a 676 percent increase over 2012 figures. The coalition proposed public policy as a way to curb vaping use in the city and raise awareness about vaping and its side effects. In May, the council tasked the parks board with further review and recommendation.
Currently, Monroe does not have a law prohibiting smoking in public parks, although it is discouraged through a 2003 proclamation for tobacco-free parks, signed by former Mayor Donnetta Walser. The proclamation was meant to raise awareness of the hazards of secondhand smoke exposure. Last year, the Snohomish Health District identified vaping as an emerging hazard, and passed a law restricting vaping in public places and youth access to vaping devices and products. State lawmakers passed a bill in June that created a youth tobacco and vapor products prevention account, which is funded by the liquor and cannabis board.
According to the health district, vaping products are underregulated and there is an absence of quality control. Most e-juice contains nicotine, even when the label states “nicotine free,” according to the district. E-juice marketing appeals to youth, touting flavors like gummy bear and vanilla cupcake.The Monroe Community Coalition has been closely monitoring data associated with vaping. Scientists have established a clear link between nicotine use and vulnerability to other substance use, said coalition coordinator Joe Neigel during a recent meeting. Further analysis of 2014 Healthy Youth Survey data confirmed that youth engagement in vaping is associated with increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, pain killers and other illegal narcotics.
These findings are what prompted the coalition to request action by the council. During its discussion, the Monroe Parks Board members generally agreed that smoking in parks has not generated a notable number of complaints, but they felt new signage is needed to discourage vaping and smoking. Recent health district data was provided to the board to better inform its decision, revealing that smokers makes up 22 percent of the adult population in Monroe.
The board voted unanimously in favor of issuing a recommendation to council and staff to adopt an administrative policy to discourage both smoking and vaping in Monroe’s city parks. The council agreed with the board’s recommendation, unanimously directing staff to craft the policy.
Enforcement of the new policy will occur through voluntary compliance, signage and public awareness. The new policy will be modeled after policy adopted by the city of Burien in 2011, with the addition of specific language directly related to vaping.
The council’s direction included the designation of $1,000 from the city’s General Fund for updated signage. The city provided a visual example of signage that could be used to discourage both smoking and vaping, crafted by the Snohomish Health District.