A pro-vaping nonprofit has sued the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health over the agency’s new countywide restrictions on electronic cigarettes.
The regulations, which the board approved unanimously in November, took effect Jan. 1 and made e-cigarettes subject to the same restrictions state law places on smoking in public places.
Under the regulations, vapor products cannot be used in public places or work sites, except for limited sampling in stores that sell the products.
The county rule also requires vapor product sellers to buy a license to operate.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Thurston County Superior Court, alleges that the restrictions “are not based on any good science” and “will greatly damage and completely destroy businesses for no valid reason and no real public interest.”
It asks a judge to roll back the restrictions before they put many vaping-related enterprises in the county out of business.
The lawsuit also says the Board of Health overstepped its authority to regulate public health concerns in instituting the restrictions on vaping.
In a statement dated Monday, the Pink Lung Brigade, the nonprofit that filed the lawsuit, said the regulations require vape shops to install unnecessary ventilation systems to keep operating, at a cost of up to $80,000.
“This new rule can be abused to force a retail shop into bankruptcy,” read the statement signed by Marc Jarrett, part-owner of Banzai Vapors in Lakewood, who is named in state corporate records as one of the vaping nonprofit’s directors.
Health Department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said Wednesday that the agency had not yet been served with the suit but said its first question would be how a suit filed in Thurston County would affect a Pierce County policy.
Jarrett said the venue was chosen to help ensure an impartial view of the case. The lawsuit does not ask for damages.
The case is scheduled for a court hearing May 13 before Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch, according to online court records.