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PD Editorial: Cities should follow county on e-cigarettes

  • FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2014 photo, Talia Eisenberg, co-founder of the Henley Vaporium, uses her vaping device in New York. Soon, the Food and Drug Administration will propose rules for e-cigarettes. The rules will have big implications for a fast-growing industry and its legions of customers. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

Many states, counties and cities have been in a fog in knowing how to respond to that fad known as "vaping."

The use of battery-operated e-cigarettes is growing in popularity as they offer the look and feel of traditional cigarettes but emit a vapor containing nicotine or other substances that lack the smoke and smell of regular tobacco products.

But should their use be regulated the same as traditional cigarettes?

So far only three states — New Jersey, North Dakota and Utah — treat electronic cigarettes much like regular tobacco products, banning their use in work places, bars and restaurants. Twenty-eight states, including California, have laws that ban their sale to minors.

Locally, Petaluma, Sebastopol and Healdsburg have rules against using e-cigarettes in public places.

And last week, Sonoma County joined the mix when the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved restrictions that ban the use of e-cigarettes, also known as vape pens, in places where traditional tobacco smoking is prohibited.

Although no one spoke against the measure at Tuesday's meeting, critics of the move claim the board is ignoring evidence that e-cigarettes are healthier for the user and can help regular cigarette users to kick the habit.

The science is anything but settled on both scores.

In March, the American Lung Association issued a statement saying it is "very concerned about the potential safety and health consequences of electronic cigarettes, as well as claims that they can be used to help smokers quit."

The association's policy statement noted that makers of e-cigarettes claim the ingredients used are safe, "but inhaling a substance is not the same as swallowing it. There are questions about how safe it is to inhale some substances in the e-cigarette vapor into the lungs."


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