Council considers restrictions on e-cigarettes in LA
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – E-cigarette use — often called “vaping” — would be banned at bars, nightclubs, restaurants and some other public areas under an ordinance to be taken up by the Los Angeles City Council today.
E-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that enable users to inhale a nicotine-laced vapor, have been marketed as smoking-cessation aids, but some city and public health officials say not enough is known about the effects of chemicals contained in the liquids.
The City Council will vote on whether to prohibit e-cigarette smoking at farmers markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, indoor workplaces such as bars and nightclubs, outdoor dining areas and other places where tobacco smoking is restricted.
Vaping lounges and stores would be exempted from the ban, similar to exceptions made for cigar and hookah lounges under tobacco smoking regulations.
E-cigarettes used for “theatrical purposes” would also be allowed under the proposed ordinance.
Supporters of the regulation point to studies indicating that chemicals considered harmful by the Food and Drug Administration — such as nickel, lead and chromium — have been detected in e-cigarettes.
The Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee approved the ordinance last week following a series of presentations from officials who warned of the dangers of e-cigarette use and its potential for making smoking seem glamorous or normal again after years of anti-tobacco smoking campaigns.
“Los Angeles is making a critical decision on the health of its residents,” Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county’s public health director, told the committee.
“Until more evidence is available on the safety of e-cigarette use, on its impact on inducing teens to begin smoking and on the potential harm to those who may inhale the second hand vapor from e-cigarettes, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health believes the best approach is a precautionary one,” he said.
The proliferation of e-cigarette use could reverse years of tobacco control and prevention efforts that have resulted in dramatic declines in smoking rates in Los Angeles County, he said.
Officials worried that e-cigarettes would lead to a “re-normalization” of smoking, especially among young people, officials said.
“Peer pressure remains a very, very serious issues amongst our youth,” Steve Zimmer, a member of the LAUSD board, told the committee last week. “I’m very, very concerned e-cigarettes are participating in a re-hipsterization of tobacco.”
Officials said studies indicated e-cigarette use doubled among middle and high school students over a one-year period.
Others were skeptical about the claims made by city and county officials.
Ruben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce said the “jury’s still out” on the dangers of e-cigarettes, and it would be irresponsible to move forward with the proposed regulation.
“We should only be making those decisions when we have the facts and evidence in place,” he said. “I would argue that here, you don’t have that. Just because you assert something doesn’t make it true.”