Substance Use Prevention
Substance use has significant impacts on our health and well-being. It is among the leading preventable causes of death (tobacco use) and contributes to both immediate harms and long-term (or chronic) illnesses.
The local health department works with our community to reduce risk factors and build community assets that help prevent substance use, with a major emphasis on addressing substance use by youth.
We use proven strategies and programs, in collaboration with community coalitions and other partners, to achieve improvements that benefit people of all ages in Thurston County.
What is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar and the smoke exhaled from people smoking. For people who inhale it, which includes anyone who is exposed not merely the person smoking, secondhand smoke can cause illness or worsen existing health problems including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma. Secondhand smoke has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known cause of cancer in humans (Group A carcinogen). There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
What is in smoke?
There are over 7,000 chemicals in secondhand tobacco smoke and over 69 of them are known to cause cancer. The 2006 US Surgeon General's Report States:
- Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.
- Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma.
- Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
- The scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Many millions of Americans, both children and adults, are still exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces despite substantial progress.
- Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating people who smoke from people who do not, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.
If you smoke:
- Smoke outside. Do not permit others to smoke in your house, apartment, or car.
- Wear “smoking clothes” that you take off when you come inside after smoking. It is also a good idea to leave the jacket outside if possible.
- If you are with children, avoid places that allow smoking.
On January 1, 2021 the Smoking and Vaping in Public Places ordinance went into effect. This ordinance:
- Prohibits smoking and vaping in indoor public spaces, places of employment, and certain youth-oriented outdoor public places in Thurston County.
- Requires signage at building entrances and youth oriented outdoor places.
If you need a sign for your business or place of employment, print a temporary sign here:
To order a decal or cling sticker for your business, email us and we will mail signage to you. Please include your name and mailing address and indicate whether you want a sticker (5.5" x 7.5") or a static cling (4" x 5.5"):
Report a Violation:
To report a violation regarding compliance contact us at the Environmental Health Issue Reporting Form.
Background on Ordinance:
The Thurston County Board of Health held a public hearing on the Smoking and Vaping in Public Places ordinance on Tuesday, October 13, 2020, and subsequently voted unanimously to adopt this ordinance. The hearing can be viewed on the Thurston County YouTube channel:
Public Health and Social Services staff also prepared State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) documents, which led to a determination of non-significance (DNS). The comment and appeal period on SEPA DNS ran concurrently with that of this public hearing and resulted in no comments or appeals of the determination of no significant adverse impacts from the ordinance.
Exposure to any amount of secondhand smoke is harmful. One of the places where people are routinely exposed to secondhand smoke is in or around their housing. Thurston County Public Health and Social Services encourages housing owners and managers to develop smoke-free policies to increase the amount of space where people are living that is free of secondhand smoke.
While there are many types of ‘smoke-free’, and ways to phase-in the policy, the only way to ensure no exposure is to declare an entire property to be smoke-free.
There are several main reasons why landlords, housing owners, and housing managers are interested in having a smoke-free policy:
- Saving on costs: less maintenance and cleaning costs for units or facilities where smoking has not been allowed; reduced risk of fires;
- Reduced liability: whereas smokers are not a protected class of people, people living with breathing disabilities or smoking allergies, which may be aggravated by exposures to secondhand smoke, do have protection under the law;
- Better reputation and attractiveness for most renters: over 80% of all renters, and even a majority of those who smoke, prefer smoke-free housing;
- Improving community health: by reducing secondhand smoke, you are helping protect your tenants from negative health effects of breathing smoke or the residues of smoking.
If you are a housing owner or manager and would like more information or assistance with establishing a smoke-free policy, or other indoor air quality issues, please contact our Education and Prevention program. This project has been funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 Indoor Air Program.
As of January 1, 2014, smoking and the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaporizers, are prohibited on Thurston County properties. Signs are posted at all county campuses to inform visitors of this policy (Resolution no. 14885).
When was this decision made?
The Board of County Commissioners voted in May 2013 to ban smoking, e-cigarettes, and the use of other tobacco products from county buildings and grounds with few exceptions.
The vote came after a three-year process that included the work of an employee committee to update the county’s tobacco policy.
The committee considered several different policy options, and ultimately recommended that all county properties be tobacco free, like policies for Mason County government, Providence St. Peter Hospital, and South Puget Sound Community College.
Why is Thurston County Tobacco-free?
The goal of the tobacco-free policy is to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for employees and for guests visiting county properties. County leaders also hope the policy will encourage employees and visitors who do use tobacco to quit.
Where can I learn more about quitting tobacco?
It is never too late to stop smoking or to quit using tobacco. When you quit, your body will undergo immediate positive changes. Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung cancer, other cancers, heart disease, asthma, and other chronic diseases.
Five (5) Keys for Quitting:
- Get ready.
- Get support.
- Learn new skills/behaviors.
- Get medication and use it correctly.
- Be prepared for difficult situations.
Electronic smoking devices or e-cigarettes are battery operated delivery devices. They are used to inhale a vaporized liquid solution that often contains nicotine (or other drugs), flavorings, and other chemicals. E-cigarette use is often referred to as vaping.
Health Effects of Vaping
- Vapes often contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive.
- People addicted to nicotine can experience significant physical and psychological symptoms when they stop using nicotine.
- Nicotine is harmful during pregnancy.
- Nicotine effects heart rate and blood pressure. It may damage blood vessels and the heart muscle.
- Vaping is harmful to your lungs.
- E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It exposes the lungs to a variety of chemicals including nicotine, ultrafine particles, and heavy metals.
Learn more about the health effects of e-cigarettes and vaping.
Tobacco and Vaping 21 Law
On January 1, 2020, a new law went into effect in Washington State that makes it illegal to sell tobacco and vapor products to anyone under age 21.
Why is this law important?
- Helps prevent initiation. Most people that smoke cigarettes start before age 18 and become addicted to nicotine.
- Reduces tobacco related deaths and improves health. Every year 8,000 people in Washington die from tobacco related illnesses.
- Decreases and delays youth use. Studies from the Institute of Medicine show raising the age to purchase tobacco will decrease youth initiation by 25%.
Vaping and Youth
Vaping is common among teens. In Thurston County more youth use vapes/e-cigarettes than traditional cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes often contain nicotine. Nicotine is the same drug that makes cigarettes addictive.
- Nicotine activates the limbic system more strongly in the adolescent brain making addiction a greater risk for youth who use nicotine.
- Youth can become addicted to nicotine quickly. Nicotine changes the way the teen brain works and can negatively impact learning.
Learn more at: Surgeon General - Get the Facts
Do vapes/E-cigarettes help you to stop smoking?
E-cigarettes are not medically approved cessation devices, which means they are not recommended to help you stop smoking. There are safe and effective cessation options available. You can learn more about medically approved cessation options at: FDA Consumer Updates
What do we know about the health effects of secondhand vapor?
- The vapor created by e-cigarettes is not harmless. Initial studies have shown the vapor contains a variety of chemicals including nicotine, ultrafine particles, and heavy metals. The quantity of the carcinogens is less than what is found in traditional cigarettes.
- The report Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine found that while e-cigarettes are likely to pose less risks than conventional cigarettes, there is also conclusive evidence that:
- e-cigarette use increases airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine in indoor environments compared with background levels.
- most e-cigarette products contain and emit numerous potentially toxic substances, with the amounts and characteristics depending on the device and e-liquid used.
- Vaping is not allowed in indoor public places, places of employment, or outdoor youth-oriented places. Free signage is available. Download, order free signage, and ask questions at email@example.com.
- Tobacco and Vapor Products 21 Law (WA DOH)
- Vaping-Associated Lung Injury Information (WA DOH)
- Amending Thurston County Park Code to Prohibit Smoking, Tobacco and Vaping Use(Ordinance No. 15652)
For Parents and Guardians:
- Parent Resources Youth Now
- Vaping Conversation Guide (American Lung Association)
- Quick Facts on Risks of E-Cigarettes for Youth (CDC)
- E-Cigarettes & Vaping: What Parents Need to Know (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Kids Health - What you need to know about vaping (Kids Health)
- General Information About Secondhand Smoke (CDC)
- 2010 Surgeon General’s Report on How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease (NIH)
- The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke (NIH)
Quitting Smoking Resources:
- Tobacco and Vapor Products 21 Law
- Vaping-Associated Lung Injury Information for Washington
- Ordinance Amending Thurston County Park Code to Prohibit Smoking, Tobacco and Vaping Use
Quit Vaping Resources:
- Free Help Quitting 1-800-QUIT-NOW
- Smartphone App Program 2Morrow
- Teen Text Message Program This is Quitting
- What is a JUUL (Vaping Trend)
- Washington State Department of Health: Vaping/E-Cigarettes
- E-cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General
- EX Plan - Free Quit Smoking Program
Youth Health Promotion Coalitions
Thurston County Public Health and Social Services engages the community and implements programs that encourage the health of our community’s young people, particularly in preventing youth substance use. The Community Prevention and Wellness Initiative (CPWI), a community-focused approach to preventing substance misuse in Washington State is one of these programs. CPWI is provided through the Washington State Health Care Authority’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery and supports youth substance misuse prevention services and strategies through local coalitions within 82 high need communities throughout Washington. Two of these community coalitions are in Thurston County:
Tumwater HOPES – serving the Tumwater area
Bucoda-Tenino Healthy Action Team (B-THAT) – serving the Bucoda and Tenino communities
Leaders in these communities, in collaboration with the coalition members, are prepared to take on the challenges of preventing substance misuse in their towns and neighborhoods. They partner with various organizations such as local school districts, Educational Service District 113, parents, local service providers, faith-based organizations, and the local police department. Combined effects of this comprehensive, evidence- and community- based approach lead to the best possible outcomes for our youth and families in these communities.
Children and teens who use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are at high risk for developing short and long-term physical, developmental, and emotional problems. Young people’s brains are still developing and are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs. Early use of alcohol and other drugs increases the risk of:
- Depressive feelings and thoughts of suicide
- Risky sexual behavior
- School failure
- Serious or fatal injuries
- Support proven prevention strategies to reduce underage substance use and substance misuse among young people, improve student performance, and reduce juvenile crime.
- Promote positive and healthy lifestyle changes to improve overall life outcomes.
- Eliminating health disparities
- Building healthy and safe community environments
- Expanding quality preventive services
- Promoting and empowering people to make healthy choices
Youth Marijuana Use Prevention
The following resources detail some of the scientific findings related to the health effects of marijuana use.
- How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain and Body
- How Marijuana Produces Its Effects
- Frequently Asked Questions about What Happens to the Body When Smoking Marijuana
Adolescence is a critical time to prevent drug abuse and addiction. Learn more: Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction
- For Parents - Start Talking Now
- University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute: Learn about Cannabis
- Results from a community-based environmental scan that examines neighborhood density of youth exposure to marijuana, vape, and glass shops: Findings from Thurston County's 2021 M-VAPE Survey