By Sarah Sapeda
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted today to tentatively approve an amendment to the county code to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in places where tobacco smoking is banned.
If approved on a second vote May 20, the use of electronic cigarettes and similar devices will be banned in county buildings and parks, and public buildings in unincorporated areas.
"The public is lacking information about the risk of the exposure to these devices, and I believe that the county, as stewards of public health, we have to limit the public's exposure to potentially harmful vapors," Supervisor Dave Roberts said.
In March, supervisors asked for a draft a proposal to mirror the county's ban on tobacco smoking.
Electronic cigarettes vaporize nicotine in a liquid solution, and the smoker inhales vapor rather than tar and other harmful compounds in tobacco.
The battery-operated devices, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, can be bought online and in convenience stores and smoke shops.
Erik Johnson, co-owner of Garden Road Vape in Ramona, asked the board to avoid a rushed decision.
"I understand that there is a need for some regulation, but it needs to be reasonable. It needs to be in the best interest of everyone," Johnson said.
Critics have called electronic cigarettes a gateway to tobacco smoking.
Supervisor Bill Horn supported the proposed ban. Though more research is needed, he said it would be difficult for the county to enforce two sets of policies.
"It's a valuable tool, I think, for people to quit smoking -- but it's not appropriate on my public facilities," Horn said.
Supervisor Ron Roberts said the county did not "blindly run into" regulating the devices. He said other cities had adopted similar bans, and no studies have proven the safety of the electronic cigarettes.
"Sometimes when new technologies are introduced there is a response, and not a proper vetting of the issue," he said. "In this instance there has been a proper vetting and I think we've done our homework."
—City News Service