DEL MAR — Electronic cigarettes and other similar devices will not be allowed at the upcoming San Diego County Fair, which begins June 7, after the governing board of the Del Mar Fairgrounds voted 6-0 at its March 11 meeting to include them in a no-smoking policy.
After a multiyear phase-out plan, the annual event became smoke-free in 2013.
Those who lobbied for the change lauded the 22nd District Agricultural Association for banning tobacco use but said electronic cigarettes were still a problem.
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.
Law enforcement officials and health and prevention experts say they are also used to inhale illegal substances.
Nancy Logan told board members when she bought a device for demonstration purposes, she was told it was “strictly for marijuana use.”
There are few studies on the effects of e-cigarettes on users or bystanders but at least one found some potentially harmful compounds are present in the vapors.
Ray McEdward, a La Mesa resident and lifelong asthmatic, said he avoided the county fair until last year because of tobacco smoke.
But while waiting in a food line the person in front of him lit up an e-cig, as they are known. McEdward said he had to use his rescue inhaler and then he and his wife left the fair early.
He said the devices “are not the harmless items everybody thinks they are.”
“Who knows what’s in this vapor?” McEdward asked. “If smokers can go eight-plus hours on a cross-country flight, why can’t they attend the fair for six hours without an e-cigarette?”
All 10 speakers at the meeting urged the board to add e-cigs and other similar devices to the list of banned smoking items at the fair. Many cited an increase in their use by young people.
Barbara Gordon, from the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, said they are perceived by youth as “safe and exciting.”
“We do not want to re-glamorize smoking again,” she said.
Her colleague Judi Strang said the industry is targeting youth with products such as cotton candy flavorings and pink cases. She also said there is “anecdotal evidence” that the devices help smokers quit the habit, but “research doesn’t yet show” they are a successful cessation method.
Board members voted 6-0 to ban the use of e-cigs and all similar electronic vaping devices that simulate smoking during the fair only, but not the horse races or other fairgrounds events.
Directors wanted the language to be as all inclusive as possible and applied wording similar to what was used earlier in the day when the County Board of Supervisors opted to restrict e-cig use.
Director Adam Day said the 22nd DAA set a “great standard” by becoming the first county fair in the state to ban smoking. “E-cigs weren’t on our radar when we did that,” he said, adding that allowing the devices would send “the wrong message to our youth.”
He also cited safety reasons for security personnel for incorporating electronic smoking devices into the no-smoking policy.
Director David Watson said “it would be totally confusing” for enforcement officials if they weren’t included.
I would feel sorry for personnel trying to distinguish between the two, Watson said.