Los Angeles Seeks to Ban Electronic Cigarettes

Los Angeles Seeks to Ban Electronic Cigarettes

By Bryan Le 02/26/14

Lawmakers fear that normalizing the act of smoking, even if it's just vaping, could undo decades of anti-smoking efforts.

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Despite the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes, Los Angeles is looking to treat vaping devices like regular old smokes, which means the city would ban them from work places, parks, beaches, and outdoor restaurant seating. But instead of citing potential threats to health, like secondhand smoke, the ban's advocates are making a social argument, stating that allowing public consumption of e-cigarettes could destigmatize or even normalize the act of smoking. 

"We don't want to risk e-cigarettes undermining a half century of successful tobacco control," said Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Fielding fears that allowing vaping to become popular could serve as a gateway to kids going back to regular smoking. The council will allow exceptions to the workplace ban for "vaping lounges," where users can inhale to their heart's content.

The new law has the support of the American Lung Association and Americans for Non-Smoker's Rights, but e-cigarette companies and business leaders are naturally opposed. "You should have the facts straight and the science right before you regulate e-cigarette use," said Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

E-cigarette vendors have argued that such a law would put too many restrictions on what they describe as a quit-smoking product. If purchasing or using electronic cigarettes becomes to difficult, they said, then those trying to quit smoking could turn back to cigarettes out of convenience.

Supporters of the law cite a CDC study that found candy-flavored e-cigarettes appealed to middle and high school students and other studies that found that vaping liquids may contain heavy metals and formaldehyde.

"Even if it were determined later on that the emissions from e-cigarettes aren't dangerous to a bystander in an outside environment, the existence of devices like this … in public places does threaten to renormalize the behavior of smoking," said City Attorney Mike Feuer.