ENCINITAS — Puffing away with e-cigarettes in parks, restaurants and other public places could soon be a thing of the past in the city.
The City Council voted unanimously at Wednesday night’s meeting to move forward with banning e-cigarettes in places where traditional smoking is prohibited. A final ordinance on the matter will be up for approval at an unknown date.
“This is about my ability to walk and be in public and not have to ingest vapors,” Councilman Tony Kranz said.
“What you do in your own home — I certainly would not have any interest in regulating that, but these public matters, I think, are very important,” Kranz added.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that convert nicotine or chemicals into vapor that’s inhaled by the user.
Encinitas isn’t the first to consider a public ban — Vista, Carlsbad and Solana Beach have passed measures limiting where e-cigarettes can be used.
“Other cities have found this is not a political issue…this is a health issue,” said former Solana Beach Mayor Joe Kellejian, who also serves on the American Lung Association board.
Kellejian noted health organizations have found potentially dangerous chemicals, like the metals nickel and chromium, in e-cigarettes. Most e-cigarettes are reusable, and the substance placed inside varies.
But Gabe Wortman, owner of RAD Vapor, an Encinitas store specializing in e-cigarettes, said “the jury is out,” because other studies have stated e-cigarettes don’t contain harmful metals.
11 public speakers weighed in on the issue. Nine were in favor of stricter regulations for the devices.
Resident Nancy Perry-Sheridan noted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated second-hand vapor from e-cigarettes could be dangerous.
“We don’t want to glamorize e-cigarette use, or vaping, and undo all of the public health awareness around addiction and secondhand smoke and nicotine use,” Perry-Sheridan said. “Please add e-cigarettes to our no-smoking policies.”
However, Wortman characterized e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking. He also pushed back against residents who said they encourage teenagers to smoke traditional cigarettes and should be banned outright.
“It’s a red herring to say it should be banned because young people get ahold of it,” Wortman said. “But young people get ahold of all sorts of things. And you can’t pass a blanket ban on everything that young people do.”
Selling e-cigarettes to minors is forbidden. Fearing teenagers getting ahold of them, cities across the state have passed laws requiring stores to obtain a license to sell e-cigarettes.
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the devices, but it’s considering doing so.
37 out of the 44 tobacco retailers in the city offer e-cigarettes, according to the staff report.
Smoking is currently banned at beaches and outdoor restaurant patios, and thus the e-cigarette ban, if approved, would extend to those places, too.
At some point, the City Council will also review the distance smokers and those using e-cigarettes must be from a public area.