Crackdowns on e-cigarettes worry Sonoma County users (w/video)

  • Robert Hatcher, 18, exhales vapor At VaPin'Up in Healdsburg, Friday April 25, 2014 customers try out different flavors of vapor liquid, some containing nicotine, others not. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2014

"Cigarettes are only made for one thing — just to kill you. E-cigarettes are different," said Scribner, 49, who said he was able to kick a decades-old smoking habit with the electronic inhalers that simulate and substitute for burning tobacco.

But while e-cigarette enthusiasts say they are great, government officials aren't convinced.

The Healdsburg City Council on April 21 unanimously approved the ordinance prohibiting the use of the electronic cigarettes in public and work places.

"I think there are a lot of unknowns with e-cigarettes," Mayor Jim Wood said Thursday. "I'm concerned about young kids who can buy them very easily. There is still nicotine in them, which is addictive. Until there is more information about the health and safety of this, it ought to be treated like cigarettes."

Just like the current Healdsburg prohibition against smoking in all enclosed places, e-cigarettes will also be prohibited within 20 feet of building entrances and open windows, parks and outdoor seating areas for restaurants and bars.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after its second reading, or likely by early June.

And for good measure, the City Council also approved an immediate moratorium on any new e-cigarette lounges and "vapor bars." The urgency measure is good for 45 days, but the council is likely to extend it for a full year following another public hearing.

Scribner's business, where customers can sample the e-cigarettes, would be grandfathered in and not affected by the moratorium.

But he said the $2 billion e-cigarette industry is just starting to gain momentum.

"You haven't seen anything yet," he said.

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