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."
Adding to the concern is how e-cigarettes have been marketed to young people with offerings in a variety of flavors including cherry, chocolate and even bubble gum, and with e-cigarette ads appearing in comic books and television programs targeted at youth.
All underscore the need for a regulatory response. But, as with cigarette use, the primary justification for the county's action is the concern over second-hand exposure. Regardless of whether the chemicals that are being emitted are harmful, nobody should have to be exposed to the vapors of e-cigarettes against their will while eating or working.
The county was right to step in and add e-cigarettes to its ordinance regulating smoking in places of employment, as well as public spaces including dining areas, recreational areas and public events. The new rules will take effect in late July.
Other jurisdictions, including Santa Rosa, should take note and follow suit.