LOS ANGELES – The City Council voted unanimously to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as regular cigarettes on March 4.
“We have an obligation to protect the workforce from the effects of secondhand aerosol exhaled by people who choose to vape on e-cigarettes,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell in a public statement.
The ordinance was first introduced on December 4 by Councilmembers Koretz, O’Farrell and Bernard Parks in response to the growing number of e-cigarettes in the public. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in February 2013 that about 21 percent of adult cigarette smokers had used an e-cigarette, while CNBC reported in August 2013 that sales for the “e-cig” was expected to reach $1.7 billion by year’s end.
“We cannot wait for the federal government to dictate our future and we cannot trust these Big Tobacco companies who are once again trying to lure us into a lifelong nicotine habit,” said Councilman Parks in the same statement.
Public communications made to the City Council showed both support and opposition towards the ordinance. Proponents of the amended regulations included the Building Owners & Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles and the American Heart Association.
“Other large cities such as New York and Chicago have taken the important step to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in places where smoking is otherwise already prohibited and the American Heart Association encourages the City of Los Angeles to do the same by the adoption of these amendments,” said Roman J. Bowser, CEO of the organization’s Western States Affiliate.
The ordinance was drafted to amend Sections 41.50 and 63.44 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code. Section 41.50 was written to ban e-cigarette smoking in city buildings, farmer’s markets and outdoor dining areas, which included bars and nightclubs.
Exceptions were made to keep e-cigarette smoking allowed on film sets where smoking is an integral aspect of the story and vaping lounges, so long as they do not sell alcohol or food, keep their sales solely to e-cigarettes and related products and keep minors away from the establishment.
Section 63.44 was amended to ban e-cigarette smoking in public park areas and beaches controlled by city departments, where the exceptions for this part of the L.A. Municipal Code were extended to designated smoking areas in such places like the Los Angeles Zoo.
Some opponents, like the American Council on Science and Health, (ACSH), claimed that e-cigarettes help current smokers quit, while also stating that the ordinance was a “simple technique of changing the meaning of well-known, long-used common words to suit a transient political agenda,” according to a letter from the ACSH.
Other opponents, such as the California Restaurant Association, tried to argue that “any action by the City Council is unnecessary and premature at best,” citing the Food and Drug Administration’s intention on regulating e-cigarettes under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009.
In a similar motion, the Beverly Hills City Council voted on February 18 to keep e-cigarettes away from open-air dining areas, workplaces and public parks based on recommendations made by the city’s Health & Safety Commission.