An ordinance that would ban the use of e-cigarettes from bars, nightclubs, restaurants and some other public places was approved by the Los Angeles City Council Tuesday after a debate that cited several studies and ended with some members expressing reservations about the proposal.
The ban, which went before the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee in February, passed a full council vote on Tuesday afternoon.
The hearing Tuesday morning at City Hall included statements from Dr. Jonathan Fielding, head of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department, who supports the restrictions. He was one of several speakers who cautioned the council regarding e-cigarette use among young people.
"Some brands have candy flavoring such as chocolate, fruit and gummy bears, which appeal to children," Fielding said.
The ordinance also bans the use of e-cigarettes in public places such as beaches, restaurants and parks. Councilmember Joe Buscaino proposed an amendment during discussion that would exempt bars from the ban, but that exemption was defeated.
Buscaino argued that although he supports keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors, the ban at bars would conflict with the rights of adults in a space where adults -- not children -- typically gather.
The ordinance would not affect affect vaping lounges or stores, which as of late have been raking in big business. E-cigarettes would also still be allowed for "theatrical purposes.
E-cigarette user Mark Burton, who was also on at the February meeting, cited a Drexel University study. The research "found that contaminate levels of the vapor, if you will, were far below what would be considered harmful," he said.
E-cigarettes, which have become wildly popular across the country and face similar contention in cities such as New York, use battery-powered metal cartridges to simulate the effect of smoking.
The cartridges heat liquid that contains small amounts of nicotine and additive flavors and turns it into vapor. Some council members expressed reservations about approving the ordinance because of studies presented that showed varying results regarding the effects of e-cigarettes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently regulates cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. Only e-cigarettes marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the agency.
"I'm struggling with this because I want to make sure we are solving a problem based on actual facts and justification," said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. "There are a variety of different views on the impact of what that second-hand vapor may be.
"There's a well-developed body of evidence on smoking. But, from everything I've heard, I don't think a case has been made that adult exposure should be something that this council acts on absent regulation by one of these agencies... equipped to make those difficult assessments."
In an opinion piece published in February on a California business and politics blog, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association Charles D. Connor wrote that the proposed restrictions of smoking in public places made sense for traditional tobacco products -- but not for e-cigarettes.
"This proposal is misguided because it would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke," he wrote.
Other detractors of the bill have underlined that the proposed ban might encourage former smokers to revisit their habit.
The City Council has already begun regulating e-cigarettes. In late 2013, the council unanimously approved a measure that regulated the sale of e-cigarettes, which prohibited those under 18 from using them.