New rules limiting smoking and vaping in public spaces take effect Friday, Jan. 1 in Thurston County.

People who smoke may already be familiar with some of these rules, but those who vape may have to adjust their habits. The changes adopt the state laws around smoking in public spaces into Thurston County’s sanitary code and apply them to vaping, according to a county news release.

Starting 2021, smoking and vaping will be banned in indoor public spaces, places of employment and certain youth-oriented public spaces such as playgrounds and childcare centers. Additionally, the rule that prohibits smoking within 25 feet of indoor public places and places of work also will apply to vaping, the release read.

“We know that policies like this support health by protecting people from exposure to secondhand smoke and vapor emissions,” said Schelli Slaughter, the county’s public health and social services director. “They also support our young people in making healthy decisions by encouraging the norm as being smoke and vape free.”

The changes apply everywhere in Thurston County with the start of the new year, but there will be a six-month phase in period focused on education and outreach rather than enforcement actions, according to the release. Enforcement and legal proceeding may be initiated beginning July 1, 2021.

Enforcement usually begins with a written notice that gives the person time to comply with the rules, The Olympian previously reported. From there, enforcement can escalate to a civil infraction or even a misdemeanor violation.

Businesses will be required to display signage where smoking and vaping are prohibited under the new rules, the release read, and the county will offer free signs for order or download. Any business that wishes to allow smoking within 25 feet of a window or door can submit an application and pay a fee to have their request reviewed, The Olympian previously reported.

The Thurston County Board of Health unanimously approved the changes Oct. 13 after receiving no public opposition.

The county health department has been increasingly concerned with vaping among young people. A 2018 study found 48% of high school seniors had tried vaping at some point and 32% actively vaped, according to the release.

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