REGION — In the professional medical opinions of two county personnel reporting to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, they agreed that the county should cite the same authority for electronic smoking devices as they have currently in place for conventional cigarettes.
That is according to Dr. Wilma Wooten of the county’s HHSA (Health and Human Services Agency).
Wooten, with Dr. Dean Sidelinger, further proposed a new, comprehensive definition for the inclusion into the county’s A-99 policy, the existing tobacco use prevention and cessation policy.
The presentation was made following a request last November from county Supervisors Ron Roberts and Dave Roberts to incorporate all electronic vapor devices into the language of the A-99 policy.
Looking at the potential health safety effects, increasing access by minors and claims as a smoking cessation aid and reviewing A-99, Wooten and Sidelinger recommended that updated electronic smoking device language be included into the policy.
While electronic cigarettes are already included in the county’s policy, other electronic smoking devices such as those that produce vapor would be included.
The county ordinance prohibits traditional smoking in county parks and trails, while smoking in facilities, including public buildings is governed by state labor codes.
The proposed definition would be read as “Any electronic and/ or battery operated device the use of which may resemble smoking, which can be used to deliver inhaled dose(s) of nicotine or other substances.”
The definition doesn’t include the use of nicotine cessation devices as nicotine inhalers, nicotine gum or nicotine patches, Sidelinger added.
Reporting some health risks associated with the unknowns of electronic smoking devices, Sidelinger said that the FDA has found inaccuracies in the labeling of some of the products claiming to be nicotine free, when in actuality, they did contain nicotine.
He noted that many of the products come in flavors that would appeal to youth, and that “without federal regulations, there are no restrictions on marketing or warnings on these products as there are with conventional cigarettes.”
The proposed definition was motioned for and approved in a 3-1 vote with Ron Roberts absent and Supervisor Bill Horn voting no.
During the meeting Roberts expressed concern over the advertising tactics he felt were being geared towards children.
He quoted from a report released earlier this month from the American Lung Association’s Healthy Stores for a Healthy Community, showing that 80 percent of stores in the county carry tobacco products with candy, mint and liquor flavors.
Some of the electronic smoking devices, he said, have taken on the appearance of asthma inhalers or magic markers, things readily found in kids’ backpacks.
These products, Roberts said, are really becoming “stealth products.”
Three cities in North County have placed restrictions on the use of electronic smoking devices in public areas, while seven others are developing restrictions.
In May, staff will return to the board for a vote to adopt the language into the policy.
Roberts made a second motion to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in the county at a later date. That motion also passed by a 3-1 vote.
Sidelinger said the use of the electronic smoking devices has tripled over the years, amounting to $1.7 billion last year.
Sidelinger cited a CDC report stating that use of the devices among youth has doubled. From 2011-12 among all students in grades six through 12, the numbers doubled from 3.3 percent to 6.8 percent.
Bill Horn expressed a contrasting viewpoint during the discussion, calling it a “knee-jerk” reaction to something that is taking place.
Horn said the devices serve as a tool to help people get off of smoking. “They are not combustible, they don’t emit an offensive odor if you’ve ever been around them, and many contain less nicotine than cigarettes,” he added.
He didn’t believe that the proposed ordinance would have an impact on the stemming of minors obtaining the devices, adding that an ordinance from Sacramento would be needed to do that.
“I don’t really like micro-managing anything, and I don’t think we ought to be telling adults that they can’t use these things if they’re trying to get off of nicotine,” said Horn.