By Kristina Houck
Solana Beach is the latest city to ban the use of electronic cigarettes.
In a 4-0 vote, the City Council on Feb. 12 amended the city’s existing smoking ordinance to include a ban on e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited. Councilman Mike Nichols was absent from the meeting.
“I’m convinced that a lot of the e-cigarettes are geared toward capturing youth and getting them involved and hooked on nicotine and tobacco,” said Councilman Peter Zahn, who brought the issue before the council. “This is something that isn’t good for our community or any community.”
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate tobacco smoking, but do not contain tobacco. Users inhale vaporized liquid that usually contains nicotine and can include a variety of other flavors.
Supporters argue e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, while critics contend they encourage use by young people.
Although the actual health risks are a subject of debate, the American Lung Association has called for regulation of these devices to protect public health, citing two initial studies that show e-cigarettes emit chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines.
“Our number one concern is that these products are going to make smoking seem normal again, especially to our kids,” said Debra Kelley, regional director of Programs and Advocacy for the American Lung Association in California.
“The products are being marketed extremely aggressively. They’re essentially using the same tactics that Big Tobacco used 40 years ago to addict another generation to nicotine.”
Current state law prohibits e-cigarette sales to minors but does not regulate where the devices can be used.
Solana Beach is the latest city in San Diego County to ban e-cigarettes. Carlsbad and Vista passed similar regulations last year, and Poway introduced a similar ordinance last week. No city in the region has banned sales.
The Solana Beach City Council also opted against banning the sale of the devices.
“I’m slightly worried about sales restrictions, largely because there is some real evidence that these things can be used as a smoking cessation device,” said Councilman David Zito. “While there is the issue of it’s also an onramp, there is some evidence that it can be a successful off-ramp, too.”
“We can always evolve,” Mayor Thomas Campbell added.