San Diego City Council approves e-cigarette regulations

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego City Council Monday unanimously approved regulations regarding vapor inhalers, also known as electronic cigarettes.

The two measures will regulate retail sales of the battery-operated devices and restrict their use. They will generally conform to restrictions on tobacco products.

Councilman Mark Kersey, who guided the package through the council, called the restrictions "common-sense regulations" that "are not an outright ban" on the devices.

He said that youth are increasingly using e-cigarettes, even though the long-term effects of inhaling "chemical vapors" are unknown.

"You should be able to go to the library or movie theater and not worry about someone vaping next to you," Kersey said.

Councilwoman Myrtle Cole called it "a public safety issue for our children." Vapor inhalers are too accessible and appealing to children, she said.

The ordinance will require store owners who sell e-cigarettes to obtain a police permit, and prohibit sales of the devices, vaping juice and other paraphernalia through vending machines.

A section that would have restricted advertisements or promotions that are visible in public areas was pulled out of the ordinance in light of recent court rulings. The City Attorney's Office plans to study the issue further and return to the City Council this fall for a possible separate adoption.

The use of vapor inhalers will be prohibited in the same types of places where people aren't allowed to smoke -- such as restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, parks and beaches. Use of the devices will be allowed in vehicles, e-cigarette shops, vaping lounges, and private residences -- except for those licensed as daycare centers that have minors present.

Proponents of vapor inhalers say the devices have weaned people off smoking cigarettes. Retailers contend that restrictions will cut them off from a rapidly growing marketplace for e-cigarettes.

The county of San Diego approved restrictions on vapor inhalers in May.

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