VISTA — The city’s smoking policies now prohibit electronic smoking in public areas and the possession of such devices/materials by minors, after the City Council voted 4-1 to include revisions to its municipal code’s stance on smoking at its June 24 meeting.
The modified ordinances update Vista’s definition of electronic cigarettes and incorporate such synthetic smoking devices into its current regulations, as well as extending prohibitive measures to said devices.
Following last October’s adoption of an ordinance amending the city’s municipal code regulation of smoking in public places, as well as at a May 27 meeting this year, Councilman Cody Campbell requested further discussion on the e-cigarette topic by considering amendments to include prohibiting e-cigarette use in public parks/facilities as well as possession by minors.
In response, three sections in the Vista Municipal Code were presented before the City Council addressing Campbell’s agenda request. Chapter 8.12 deals with smoking activities in public places; Chapter 8.16 concerns minors’ possession of smoking materials; Chapter 12.08 tackles smoking in and around public parks.
During the meeting, Gena Knutson, who manages the Vista Community Clinic’s tobacco control program, mentioned how the aggressive marketing of e-cigarettes affects minors in terms of where they’re sold (in convenience stores, placed where candy, gum, and ice cream are located) and the appealing flavors contained within these products.
“Youth are rapidly adopting e-cigarettes,” she said, and as to why, she added, “Flavor is an important product characteristic in determining who is attracted to a product and the ability to get started on a product.” And some of these flavors include gummy bears, chocolate, cotton candy and cherry.
Knutson went on to say that there is no proof of e-cigarettes helping people quit smoking; furthermore, according to the FDA, e-cigarette use has not been approved as an effective means of aiding smokers in their efforts to quit. And no e-cigarette brand has undergone FDA safety evaluations.
Janet Asaro, a citizen from Carlsbad, expressed relief at hearing the Vista City Council add e-cigarettes to its smoke-free ordinance, which already includes regular cigarettes. “They advertise to our youth,” she said. “We’re going to create another generation of smokers if we don’t take care of this in North County right away.”
A member of the American Lung Association, Debra Kelley, voiced her concerns about the youth not realizing the e-cigarette’s deadly potential due to its attractive flavors marketed towards them. “They might not even know,” she stated, and continued to say that, “they might not even taste the nicotine because of the sweetness.”
Kelley continued by mentioning how the number of calls to poison centers has increased from “one a month to over 200a month,” thanks to the introduction of e-cigarettes.
Among the four — Mayor Judy Ritter, Deputy Mayor John Aguilera, and Campbell — who voted in favor of adopting the amended ordinances regarding the electronic smoking issue, it was Councilman Dave Cowles that acknowledged the speakers in particular for bringing substantial research and data about e-cigarette smoking to the council’s attention.
“We can’t control the overall sale of it,” he said, “but where we can — in our public places and in the way we allow sales — I think we need to do the best we can.”