Healdsburg’s temporary ban on e-cigarette lounges and vapor bars is moving closer to being permanent.
The City Council on Monday voted 5-0 to extend for another year a moratorium on new applications for such establishments, but is likely to make it a permanent ordinance when the matter comes back for reconsideration in April.
“I think the effects of e-cigarettes are not known. That’s why we want to take that precautionary measure until the research comes in,” Mayor Shaun McCaffery said.
Concern about the proliferation of e-cigarette lounges in other cities prompted the crackdown, to ensure they don’t start popping up in a town known more for its trendy restaurants and wine bars.
City officials cite concerns about the health impacts of the nicotine vapor from electronic cigarettes, pens, vape pipes and other devices, as well as their ability to get minors hooked.
Planning Director Barbara Nelson said the health effects of inhaled nicotine vapor and second-hand vapor are unknown “due to inaccurate nicotine, variations in nicotine related impurities in cartridges among different manufacturers and different levels of metal and silicate particle concentrations in electronic cigarette particles.”
The Planning Commission last week unanimously recommended the council approve a permanent ordinance that would exclude e-cigarette lounges and vapor bars from Healdsburg.
There have been no applications for such businesses in Healdsburg, according to Nelson, although there is at least one existing store in Healdsburg, Vapin’ Up, where customers can sample e-cigarettes and also get together in regular “vapin’ ” sessions.
Nelson said it is uncertain whether a new ordinance would grandfather in that business’ ability to use the devices on the premises.
The Healdsburg City Council last year unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in public and in workplaces.
E-cigarettes have a battery-powered device that allows users to inhale a vapor containing nicotine and other substances in a vast array of flavors.
Users argue that e-cigarette vapor is healthier and less offensive than secondhand smoke.
Aficionados say the e-cigarette vapor doesn’t stink up their hair, clothes and breath, as tobacco smoke does. And they say that for the most part, it doesn’t offend nonsmokers.
Some e-cigarettes users claim it has helped them kick a regular tobacco smoking habit because it’s easier to gradually decrease the dose of nicotine delivered. They report benefits such as losing their smoker’s cough, no more pain in their chest, no more night sweats .
City officials are not convinced. And they are concerned about the influence of e-cigarettes on minors. Nelson said a recent study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco involving 40,000 youth around the country found that adolescents who use electronic smoking devices were more likely to smoke cigarettes and less likely to quit smoking.
Currently, there are no statewide rules governing vapor bars or e-cigarettes lounges, however legislation was recently introduced by State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that would add electronic cigarettes to the state’s Smoke Free Workplace law.
A majority of the City Council has shown a willingness not only to crack down on e-cigarettes, but also on youth smoking.
Healdsburg in October became the first city in the state to ban the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, in a move that was hailed as a step toward cutting down on youth smoking, but also criticized for putting local retailers at a disadvantage and exposing the city to potential lawsuits from the tobacco industry.