Cities cracking down on e-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes are under attack from health officials on each of the coasts.

On the West Coast, the Los Angeles City Council is cracking down on the sales of e-cigarettes.

On the East Coast, the New York City Council is considering a ban of the devices in public places.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that look like cigarettes. The device has a replaceable cartridge soaked with nicotine and, sometimes, other flavors such as chocolate, cherry, mint and tobacco. The vaporized liquid is then inhaled by the user.

Unlike tobacco cigarettes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate e-cigarettes.

That’s why local officials in some jurisdictions are tackling the issue themselves.

In L.A., the council voted unanimously this week to regulate the sale of electronic cigarettes and is considering legislation that would ban the use of e-cigarettes in the same places that tobacco is prohibited, including restaurants and parks.

The new law there regulates electronic smoking devices as a tobacco product, making their sales subject to the same restrictions as tobacco, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s a very sinister approach to a very sinister product,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who wrote action regulating use of e-smoking devices, is quoted in the story. “We don’t want to wait for the feds to do something.”

In New York, the city council heard testimony this week regarding a proposal to add electronic cigarettes to the city’s ban on smoking in public places.

Health officials there argue e-cigarettes make smoking socially acceptable and cause confusion since they electronic devices look similar to tobacco cigarettes.

“I’m just not willing to wait for Big Tobacco to completely take over the electronic cigarette industry, and then you’ll get nothing out of Washington, because people are bought and paid for,” James F. Gennaro, a councilman and the prime sponsor of the bill, is quoted in a New York Times article.

The Clark County commissioners considered similar restrictions in 2011. The commissioners approved legislation in June 2011 to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors but stopped short of banning “vaping” in public places.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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