In an unprecedented move by a Hawaii state agency, the state Department of Health announced that it is banning the use of electronic smoking devices, or e-cigarettes, on all of its properties. 

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, ban applies to employees, residents, students, contract workers and anyone else who happens to be on a property operated by the state health department. 

“Using electronic smoking devices threatens our smoke-free laws designed to protect the public from the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine,” said Lola Irvin, DOH Tobacco Settlement programs manager. “While electronic smoking devices are touted for being smoke-free, they have not been proven to be safe. These devices release nicotine and other chemicals and carcinogens into the environment, leaving those around them exposed to the potentially harmful vapor — just like second-hand smoke. Electronic smoking devices also confuse the public who expect a smoke-free environment and erode the strong belief in our Hawaii Smoke-Free Workplace and Public Places Law.”

According to a news release from the agency, the electronic smoking device policy was one of the last policies signed by the late Director of Health Loretta J. Fuddy, who passed away last Wednesday after the plane she was on was forced to make a water landing after taking off from Kalaupapa, Molokai.  

“Director Fuddy believed that as the Department of Health, it is our responsibility to set the standard for health for the people of Hawaii,” said Irvin. “Today, we are taking a stand to protect our workers and our public. We hope to inspire others to take a similar position and join us in carrying out her legacy.”

Photo: An electronic cigarette and smoker. (planetc1)

— Gene Park