The Los Angeles City Council moved today to ban e-cigarette use, often called "vaping,'' inside bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other public areas where tobacco smoking is restricted.
The council voted 14-0 to approve the ordinance prohibiting vaping at farmers' markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, indoor workplaces such as bars and nightclubs, outdoor dining areas and other places where lighting up is banned.
Vaping lounges and stores will be exempted from the ban, similar to exceptions made for cigar and hookah lounges under tobacco smoking regulations. E-cigarettes used for "theatrical purposes'' will also be allowed. The prohibition still requires approval from the mayor.
A motion by Councilman Joe Buscaino that would have allowedmconsideration of an exemption for bars failed on a 8-6 vote. Buscaino, in pushing for the amendment, argued that while he supported keeping e-cigarettes out of the hands of minors, the ban at bars would tread on the rights of adults to use e-cigarettes.
"Although e-cigarettes look like cigarettes, they are not tobacco, and I don't think they should be regulated exactly the same way,'' he said, adding,
"I've heard from so many people ... that they've stopped smoking because of e-cigarettes.''
The battery-powered devices, which have been marketed as smoking-cessation aids, enable users to inhale a nicotine-laced vapor.
Some city and public health officials say not enough is known about the effects of chemicals contained in the liquids. Supporters of the regulation point to studies indicating that chemicals considered harmful by the Food and Drug Administration -- such as nickel, lead and chromium -- have been detected in e-cigarettes.
"Safer does not mean safe,'' Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's public health director, told the council. "Although they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, some e-cigarettes contains some health risks.''
Fielding added that e-cigarette sales have grown into a "$1.5 billion industry that has caught the attention of big tobacco, which historically has had scant regard for public health.''
Councilman Paul Koretz, who proposed the ban with Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and with support from Councilman Bernard Parks, said e-cigarettes, which are flavored in bubble gum, fruit and other similar flavors, are being marketed to youth.
"I am most concerned about kids,'' Koretz said. "We all know this is being marketed to kids, getting some kids who don't smoke tobacco to start.''
The passage of the ban followed a lengthy debate, with several council members questioning everything from the science behind the health effects of e- cigarettes to the rights of adults to use a device that is potentially harmful but legal.
Councilman Bob Blumenfield, part of a minority group of six members who voted to consider Buscaino's amendment to exempt bars from the ban's reach, asked how the effects of ultra-fine particles, carcinogens and other toxins found in some e-cigarettes compare to those found in "common, everyday'' sources such as laser printers, coffee, frying bacon and camp fires.
USC professor Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, serving on a panel of experts supporting the ban, responded that it was the combination of unregulated chemicals in e-cigarettes that raises concern that they may be dangerous.