SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday adopted an amendment to the county code to prohibit the use of electronic smoking devices in places where tobacco smoking is banned, including public buildings in unincorporated areas and parks.
Electronic cigarettes vaporize nicotine in a liquid solution, and the smoker inhales vapor rather than tar and other harmful compounds in tobacco.
A UC study, however, recently concluded that vapor from e-cigarettes trigged defense mechanisms in MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, making the already hard-to-kill superbug harder to kill. Critics also have questioned the safety of flavorings added to nicotine solutions.
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.
Critics have called electronic cigarettes a gateway to tobacco smoking.
Supervisor Bill Horn agreed that electronic cigarettes were a “good tool to get people to quit smoking,” but the county should “protect the public in public spaces.”
Pat Meyer of San Diego, who used an electronic smoking device to help quit smoking three years ago, agreed with the supervisors that smokers who reduce or eliminate their exposure to tobacco should be applauded.
Smoking should not be re-normalized, Meyer said, and the use of e- cigarettes by minors should be prohibited. Like smokers, “vapers” should be considerate of others.
“Bans do nothing to inform anyone,” Meyer said. “Teaching the realities of vaping can be difficult — highly publicized distorted allegations have resulted in public demonization. Many have already closed their minds to information that might stimulate reassessment.”
In March, the Board of Supervisors agreed to regulate the devices and added them into the Tobacco Use, Prevention and Cessation program. The restrictions will take effect in 30 days.
Supervisor Ron Roberts stressed that the regulations would not put electronic smoking devices out of business, but would only limit where they could be used.
“If people want to use it to stop smoking, God bless them, but they’re just not going to be able to do it everywhere,” Roberts said.
—— Story by Sarah Sapeda of City News Service