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  Richmond Cracks Down on E-Cigarettes
December 4, 2013

Richmond cracks down on e-cigarettes
By Robert Rogers Contra Costa Times
Posted:   12/04/2013 07:12:18 AM PST
Updated:   12/04/2013 01:30:26 PM PST

RICHMOND -- The city's tough anti-smoking laws are now set to include electronic cigarettes, which city leaders and health advocates say may be dangerous to smokers and those around them and serve as a gateway to using conventional cigarettes.
A unanimous City Council on Tuesday voted to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit smoking electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, in any enclosed public space, even open-air locations like fenced parks.
"This City Council has taken the issue of nicotine use, and kids getting addicted to it, very seriously," said Councilman Jim Rogers, one of the law's sponsors.
E-cigarettes are smokeless devices, typically made of plastic or metal, that allow users to
Ken Miguel of San Jose exhales e-cigarette vapor on Oct. 18, 2013 at The Vape Bar in San Jose. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group File)
inhale nicotine vapor rather than tobacco fumes. But health advocates are skeptical of the fast-growing products, which are not yet regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration and are touted as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes.
Several health advocates spoke during public comments Tuesday, saying they worried about what chemicals may be in e-cigarettes, their possible long-term health effects on users and their potential effect of making smoking seem more socially acceptable, especially to kids.
Although he voted in favor of the ordinance, Councilman Corky Boozé questioned the lack of definitive research, which proponents blamed on the products' relative newness, and noted that the vapors do not appear to produce any secondhand smoke.
"There is nothing coming out of the e-cigarettes," Boozé said.
The battery-powered devices heat up liquid nicotine solutions, creating a vapor that users can inhale.
E-cigarette sales surged from about 50,000 in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2012, and the number of children surveyed who reported trying the product increased from 3.3 percent in 2011 to 6.8 percent in 2012, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
In California, it's illegal to sell e-cigarettes to people younger than 18, but regulation beyond that has only taken place at the municipal level. A state bill that would bar the use of e-cigarettes in public places was tabled this summer.
At least 45 cities and counties statewide, including Contra Costa County, have already extended their anti-smoking ordinances to e-cigarettes, according to a staff report.
"Richmond is no pioneer on this one," Councilman Tom Butt said.
The new ordinance would bar smoking e-cigarettes in all enclosed places other than private residences and places of employment; all multi-unit residence common areas; unenclosed dining, recreational and service areas; and public events like festivals and farmers markets. Smokers must be at least 25 feet away from prohibited areas.
Twenty percent of all hotel rooms can permit smoking e-cigarettes.
Violations can be met with fines of up to $1,000, according to the ordinance. The council will give the ordinance a second reading early next year, and it may become law 90 days later.
Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/SFBaynewsrogers.
City council tightens laws on e-cigarettes
Richmond Confidential
Richmond City Council cracks down on use of electronic cigarettes.  (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)
Richmond City Council cracks down on use of electronic cigarettes. (Photo by: Tawanda Kanhema)
By Nancy DeVillePosted December 4, 2013 10:05 am
Electronic cigarette smokers will have to think twice before lighting up in Richmond, as the city council voted Tuesday night to expand its smoking ban to include the battery operated devices.
The city has enacted several policies in recent years to regulate smoking, including an ordinance prohibiting smoking in and around multi-unit residences. But this new ordinance will now treat the electronic cigarettes like traditional ones, said Councilman Tom Butt.
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes as they are sometimes called, are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additive substances to the user in an aerosol.
“Richmond has been and continues to be a leader statewide in these ordinances,” Butt said. “The whole development of electronic cigarettes has been so recent that it was left out of our original ordinances.”
He added, “This is an opportunity to simply amend those ordinances to recognize this new development.”
The use of electronic cigarettes in smoke-free locations threatens to reverse the progress the city has made in prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment, the staff report says.
The ordinance will prohibit e-cigarettes in public places excluding private residences, places of employment, unenclosed dining, recreational and service areas along with public events such as a farmers’ market, parade or festival. The law states smokers must be located at least 25 feet from nonsmoking areas.
The council took a cue from the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors which adopted a similar ordinance earlier this year to ban the electronic nicotine devices in places where smoking is prohibited. It also requires retailers selling these products to secure a tobacco retailer license.
“Richmond is not a pioneer in this thing; we are just catching up,” Butt said.
The products are having an impact on teens, as the percentage of U.S. middle and high school students who use e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Clinical studies about the safety of e-cigarettes have not been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for the more than 400 brands of electronic cigarettes that are on the market. E-cigarettes not marketed for therapeutic purposes are currently not regulated by the FDA. And it has not been determined whether these devices are safe or what types of potentially harmful chemicals the products contain, opponents say.
While some believe these smokeless devices are a safer option than traditional cigarettes, health advocates that spoke at Tuesday’s meeting disagree.
“Studies do show that people who sit next to people who are using these cigarettes, the vapor does get into their body,” said Phillip Gardiner, who conducts electronic cigarette research for the University of California Office of the President.
“E-cigarettes may be safer, but they’re not safe.”
But Richmond resident Jackie Thompson said the council’s concentration should be on tobacco cigarettes, which she says constitute the real problem.
“I see these as more dangerous than e-cigarettes,” she said. “You can try to save the world but you can’t do it. I think there is more you can focus and work on other than the e-cigarettes. What are we going to do to fight the real smoke?”