DEL MAR – Electronic cigarettes will be treated like their tobacco counterparts in Del Mar after council members unanimously agreed at the April 7 meeting to regulate the devices.
The move puts the seaside community on a growing list of cities such as Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside that have prohibited, or are in the process of prohibiting, their use in areas where conventional smoking is not allowed, including beaches, parks and outdoor cafes.
The new law will define e-cigs, as they are known, as items “that can provide an inhalable dose of nicotine by delivering a vaporized solution,” the staff report states.
Similar devices intended to emulate smoking and that allow a person to inhale vapors or mists that may or may not include nicotine are also included in the proposed ordinance.
E-cigs, which are not currently regulated by federal or state laws, produce water vapor, not smoke, and do not contain tobacco. While some say they can help tobacco smokers quit the habit, certain studies have not substantiated that claim.
Many experts agree there is not sufficient data yet on how e-cig vapors affect users or bystanders. But a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals “startling new data,” Barbara Gordon, from the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, said, showing an increase in calls to the nation’s poison center for e-cig exposure.
Citing the report, Gordon said most calls are about accidental ingestion of the liquid, but one-sixth resulted from people inhaling the products.
Councilman Don Mosier, a professor who holds medical and doctorate degrees, said many people are unaware of the dangers of nicotine oils.
“The nicotine content of this oil is incredibly high, which is why it’s so toxic,” he said. “So these things are dangerous to have in public settings. They’re dangerous to have in your home if you have young kids.”
Mosier said new smokers who don’t dose correctly run the risk of overdosing when trying e-cigs for the first time.
“So in some ways these are much more dangerous to the user than they are to bystanders,” he said.
“The vapor is not innocuous. It does contain nicotine.”
Judi Strang, also from the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, said the devices are problematic for reasons other than health.
“Due to the similar appearances between e-cigs … and traditional tobacco products, it can be very difficult to quickly decipher between the products in the public environment,” she said, quoting from a position statement recently released by a national association of local boards of health.
“People may become confused about these products,” she said, noting that the similarities make it difficult for those responsible for enforcement to make smoke-free air laws beneficial for citizens.
Resident Bill Michalsky agreed. When he sees e-cig smokers walking down the street, “at first glance I think they’re smoking real tobacco,” he said. “Until you get up next to them you don’t know any different. To me it’s hard to discern what’s going on.
“I just would encourage you to strengthen the code because I don’t think the e-cigarettes in the long term … are going to cause good for the people,” Michalsky added.