VISTA — Up in vapors, as it were.
That’s what’s become of being able to smoke e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) in some public places after the City Council voted 4-1 to add the growing trend of synthetic-smoking to its municipal code that already bans traditional smoking in many public places.
The ban follows the city’s smoking ordinance in part, but this particular ordinance for e-cigarettes was focused only on indoor public places such as restaurants.
The ruling doesn’t ban the smoking of e-cigarettes in outdoor public places.
Earlier this summer, Councilman Cody Campbell attempted to pass a wider ban on traditional cigarette smoking that would include indoor dining establishments.
That ban attempt failed by a 3-2 margin.
At the meeting, Campbell made the motion to re-introduce the wider smoking ban on a future agenda, though none of the other council members seconded the motion.
There are plenty of questions still swirling around the safety of e-cigarettes and whether the vapor they produce, not an actual smoke, could be harmful to users and those nearby.
A statement from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) describes e-cigarettes as “battery-operated products that turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and/or other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.”
The FDA regulates only those e-cigarettes that make therapeutic claims.
Stephanie Yao, a spokesperson for the FDA further defined therapeutic claims as any claims of aiding in the cessation of smoking.
The FDA has said that further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products.
A 2011 study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 21 percent of adults who smoke traditional cigarettes had used e-cigarettes. That amounted to a 10 percent increase in usage from 2010.
Gena Knutson, program manager of tobacco control with the Vista Community Clinic said she’s seen the rise in the use of e-cigarettes in the last four to six months.
Knutson added that she’s seen them being used more by young adults, though the clinic, she said, has heard anecdotal information that they’re being seen at middle schools and high schools.
With nicotine in the e-cigarettes, Knutson said she was concerned that using them might lead people to more usage of tobacco products.
Funded by the state through Prop 99, the tax on cigarettes, the clinic’s tobacco reduction program, Knutson said, does a lot of education and works to reduce people’s exposure to, and the use of, tobacco products.
As for the impact this ban will have, she said she thinks it will help to reduce these types of behaviors.
“Right now, it’s kind of the wild west as far as e-cigarettes because there’s no regulation of them,” she said.
“Law enforcement can’t do anything if they see youth smoking e-cigarettes.