After Regulations Imposed, LA Could Wholly Ban Use of E-Cigarettes

The proposed ordinance would essentially treat e-cigarettes like traditional tobacco products, and would furthermore restrict their use in certain public places

By Sean Fitz-Gerald
|  Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014  |  Updated 7:21 AM PDT
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The proposal to ban e-cigarettes in public was passed unanimously in committee Monday. Now, the controversial issue goes to a full city council vote. Kathy Vara reports from downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday Feb. 24, 2014.

Kathy Vara

The proposal to ban e-cigarettes in public was passed unanimously in committee Monday. Now, the controversial issue goes to a full city council vote. Kathy Vara reports from downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Monday Feb. 24, 2014.

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Tensions related to e-cigarettes are burning up, after proponents and opponents of the devices butted heads Monday afternoon in a Los Angeles City Council committee meeting to debate how to handle the tobacco substitute's use in public.

Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Koretz on Jan. 14 motioned for Los Angeles’ chief legislative analyst (CLA) to review a policy proposal related to the general use and classification of e-cigarettes.

The ensuing report from CLA Gerry F. Miller recommended actions that would essentially treat e-cigarettes as traditional tobacco products.

The strict proposal, which was put before the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee as part of Monday's meeting, passed unanimously and will go to the full council for a vote in the first week of March.

If passed, the ordinance would also ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places such as beaches, restaurants and parks.

“For anyone to say that e-cigarettes are not harmful, I think they are taking us down the same path tha the tobacco industry said in 1954 that cigarettes were not harmful,” Councilman Bernard Parks said during Monday’s meeting.

E-cigarette user Mark Burton, who was also on hand Monday, 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.

In an opinion piece published last week 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 bad habit.

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.

An exemption was made to the proposal during Monday’s meeting that said the ordinance would not affect vape shops, which as of late have been raking in big business.

The City Council has already laid down the law on the devices by unanimously approving previous measures that prohibited those under 18 from using them and regulated sales.

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