Solana Beach to require e-cigarette retailers to obtain licenses

By Kristina Houck

Just three months after the council banned the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited in Solana Beach, council members have now voted to require vendors to obtain a license.

In a 5-0 vote, the council on May 28 agreed that retailers of electronic smoking devices should hold the same license tobacco retailers in the city are required to obtain.

“Thank you for bringing the ordinance forward,” said Solana Beach resident Peggy Walker, who worked at the San Dieguito Union High School District for about 15 years on drug and tobacco use prevention and education. She noted a report released in April by members of the U.S. Senate cited concerns that e-cigarettes aggressively target youth, and should be strictly regulated like traditional cigarettes.

“I urge its passage because it will go a long way in safeguarding the health and well being of our young people who may not understand or appreciate the potential harmfulness of e-cigarettes.”

“They are clearly being marketed to young people,” added Barbara Gordon, who is with the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth. “We do not want to re-glamorize smoking, so we applaud the city for addressing this important issue.”

According to the new ordinance, vendors must assist customers with e-cigarette purchases; therefore vending machine sales are prohibited. E-cigarettes also must be sold in the original packaging from the manufacturer. Free e-cigarettes and coupons for e-cigarettes are prohibited to anyone on public property.

In addition to adopting the ordinance, the council has also asked staff to study the issue and return to council with a recommendation on the city’s stance on the businesses. City Attorney Johanna Canlas said she expects staff to present a variety of options, including a moratorium and zoning amendments.

Earlier in the meeting, Debra Kelley, the regional director of programs and advocacy for the American Lung Association in California, noted that the cities of El Cajon and Lemon Grove have enacted emergency moratoriums to prevent new vaporizer shops and hookah lounges from opening.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate tobacco smoking, but do not contain tobacco. Users inhale vaporized liquid that may or may not contain nicotine and can include a variety of other flavors.

Supporters argue e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional 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.

Current state law prohibits e-cigarette sales to minors but does not regulate where the devices can be used.

Solana Beach is one of several cities in the county to ban e-cigarettes. No city in the region has banned sales.