SOLANA BEACH — E-cigarette use is about to go up in smoke in Solana Beach after City Council, with a 4-0-1 vote at the Feb. 26 meeting, moved forward to prohibit the devices wherever traditional smoking is not allowed, such as at beaches, parks and the Coastal Rail Trail.
E-cigs, as they are known, and all other similar devices will be included in the definition of “smoking” when an amendment to the existing law takes effect next month.
The battery-powered vaporizers, also called electronic nicotine delivery systems, simulate smoking. A heating element vaporizes liquid solutions that contain nicotine, flavorings, both or one of the two.
Critics, law enforcement officials and health and prevention experts say they are also used to inhale illegal substances such as marijuana and heroin.
E-cigs don’t contain tobacco or produce fire, smoke, ash or carbon monoxide. There are few studies on their effects on users or bystanders but at least one study found some potentially harmful compounds are present in the vapors.
It is sometimes difficult, especially from a distance, to tell the difference between them and real cigarettes.
Other than a ban on selling them to minors, there are currently no state or federal laws regulating e-cigs. Several well-known organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Lung Association, have noted a rise in the use of e-cigs among middle and high school students.
In San Diego County, Vista, Carlsbad and Poway amended ordinances to prohibit e-cigs where traditional smoking is prohibited. Several other cities and the Del Mar Fairgrounds are taking steps in that same direction.
Specifically, the new Solana Beach law defines smoking as “the carrying, holding, or use of a lighted pipe, cigar, or cigarette of any kind, or any other lighted smoking equipment, or the lighting or emitting or exhaling the smoke of a pipe, cigar or cigarette of any kind; or the carrying, holding, or use of an electronic cigarette … or a similar device intended to emulate smoking that permits a person to inhale vapors or mists that may or may not include nicotine.”
Smoking is further defined as “emitting or exhaling the fumes or vapor of any pipe, cigar, cigarette, or any other lighted smoking equipment used for burning any tobacco product, weed, plant or any other combustible substance, or any e-cigarette, hookah, or other similar device.”
“This is the most expansive definition that we can provide for you,” City Attorney Johanna Canlas said.
Following the initial discussion of a ban at the Feb. 12 meeting, council members, in 4-0 with Mike Nichols absent, directed staff to prepare an ordnance amendment.
Nichols said he was advised by the city attorney to recuse himself from the Feb. 26 discussion and vote because of “a potential conflict of interest through a family relationship in this industry.”
The law will go into effect 30 days after its final adoption, likely at the March 12 meeting.