CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health is moving forward with a proposal that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes and similar devices in public places.

The board on Thursday agreed to open a public comment period on the proposal, which would treat e-cigarettes like cigarettes and similar tobacco products under the county’s Clean Indoor Air Act. If the proposal is enacted, vaping would be prohibited in places such as restaurants, retail stores and most businesses.

The proposal comes amid increased scrutiny over vaping; according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 2,400 cases of hospitalization and 52 deaths related to vaping. State Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, wants the state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, writing a request to Gov. Jim Justice in November.

“Initially, when vaping became more popular, it was used as a means to deliver nicotine but supposed to be safer than cigarettes,” said Dr. Sherri Young, the executive director and health officer of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. “What we’re finding over the past year is that there have been so many illnesses related to this, that is has become a public health crisis.”

Under the proposal, if someone is caught vaping in a place where prohibited, they will be asked to stop. County sanitary officials will additionally check if restaurants are removing patrons who vape as well as have signs asking people to not to vape in their businesses.

The public has until Jan. 16 to submit written comments to the board on the proposal. The body will hold a meeting that day to vote on the policy, and the public will be allowed to make comments before the vote.

Comments can be sent to the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health, P.O. Box 927, Charleston, W.Va. 25323; or emailed to