San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey considers proposal to regulate e-cigarettes

City committee to consider the proposal Feb. 26

SAN DIEGO - Councilman Mark Kersey proposed Thursday that the city of San Diego implement regulations to address the proliferation of electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as e-cigarettes.

In a memo to the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, of which Kersey is a member, he asked to docket an item to begin considering regulations for the products.

Kersey said e-cigarettes should be regulated in the same manner as traditional cigarettes, which would prohibit their use at parks, libraries, public facilities like Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park, and inside restaurants and bars.

"There are a lot of questions about the safety of e-cigarettes both for users and those who may inhale the second-hand vapor," Kersey said. "We didn't know the true health impacts of secondhand smoke from regular cigarettes until much later and I simply don't want to take the same risk with this new form of nicotine."

E-cigarettes, or vapor inhalers, allow users to puff on synthetic nicotine without also inhaling tar and some other harmful substances common to regular cigarettes. The battery-operated devices, which can be purchased online and in smoke shops, do not use tobacco.

Instead, e-cigarettes use liquid nicotine, known as "smoke juice," but instead of smoke, when exhaled, the e-cigarettes emit a vapor. E-cigarette usage among middle and high school students has increased over 100 percent from 2011 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

According to Kersey, there is no regulation or oversight of the production of liquid nicotine, and very little research exists as to the safety of the vapor for those who may inhale it secondhand.

He said the hundreds of smoke juice flavors, which include cola and peppermint patty, make e-cigarettes appear designed to appeal to youth. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette usage among middle and high school students doubled between 2011 and 2012.

E-cigarette users like 22-year-old Cynthia Wilson said banning e-cigarettes is just too drastic.

"I think it will cause outrage from the public. It's finally been an alternative for smokers," said Wilson.

While most e-cigarette users are against the ban, some store owners, including Rich Cooley of Broadway Vapors, said he understands the need.

"When you are blowing vapors all around the room some people just may not want that around them," said Cooley.

Cooley doesn't believe a ban would be bad for business.

"It's a $1.7 billion industry, and it's projected to be over $10 billion in five years with online sales and retail," said Cooley.

While e-cigarette's aren't going away Kersey believes they should be restricted.

"By leaving e-cigarettes unregulated, we could undo the incredible progress that's been made educating our children on the dangers of nicotine addiction and ease the transition toward other dangerous tobacco products," Kersey said.

The county is crafting e-cigarette regulations for unincorporated areas. The councilman said Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are also considering regulations of the devices.

The committee will consider the proposal at a Feb. 26 meeting.

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