In a vote punctuated by emotional testimony, the Los Angeles City Council approved new regulations on electronic cigarettes that would essentially treat the vapor devices just like regular tobacco cigarettes.
The Los Angeles Times called the vote "one of the most personal debates to be heard on the council floor in years."
On a 14-0 vote, lawmakers outlawed "vaping" — the practice of inhaling the vapors produced by e-cigarettes — in most work sites and many public places, including parks and certain beaches.
Lawmakers voted to continue allowing e-cigarette use in so-called vaping lounges, where patrons can try the various e-juices that are loaded into the battery-powered devices. And they narrowly defeated a push by the e-cigarette industry to let the practice continue in 21-and-over establishments, such as bars and nightclubs.
The debate brought to light the strong views on each side of the e-cigarette debate.... Backers of the battery-powered devices portray them as a godsend for those looking to quit conventional smoking. They also warned the research has not yet proven that second-hand emissions from e-cigarettes are harmful to others.
Opponents of e-cigarettes say the devices make smoking seem more socially acceptable. "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.
Council President Herb Wesson, in the most passionate speech of the day, described his decades-long addiction to cigarettes, a habit he told his colleagues would almost certainly kill him one day. Wesson said he began smoking because he wanted to be cool.
"When you're 15, you want to be cool," he said. "And I will not support anything — anything — that might attract one new smoker."
Councilman Joe Buscaino tried to introduce an amendment which would have exempted bars and nightclubs from the new regulation, but the measure fell short of passage. "[E-cigarettes] are not tobacco," he said. "And I don't think they should be regulated exactly the same way."
Los Angeles would join a growing list of cities, including New York and Chicago, that restrict the use of e-cigarettes, battery-powered cartridges filled with nicotine liquid that create an inhalable vapor when heated. At stake is the future of an industry that some analysts believe will eventually overtake the $80 billion-a-year tobacco business.
Full confession here: I'm an ex-smoker and yup, I used e-cigarettes to help me quit. A week of puffing on an awkward tasting plastic and metal tube thing and I basically went "What the fuck are you doing, lady?" Hey, if that's what it takes to get me or someone else to stop smoking, then hallelujah.
However, I suspect this "trend" in American cities to regulate e-cigarettes is probably a lot less about their concerns over public health and the risk to youths (WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN) and more about city officials being ticked that there's not a way to tax these things that are apparently taking over their cigarette tax cash cows. First comes "regulations," then comes taxes on the product, no doubt. Annnnnnd now I sound like my Libertarian uncle who is always trying to convince me that we don't need things like seat belt laws and the IRS. Oh brother.