Carlsbad latest city to regulate e-cigarettes like regular cigarettes
CARLSBAD VILLAGE – Inhaling a flume of white haze from a metallic device that looks vaguely like a piccolo, Tammy Wells relaxes at one of her favorite lounges.
But though it looks like smoke she's exhaling, it's not.
She's “vaping” – inhaling and exhaling a vaporized liquid solution containing nicotine. She draws the vapor from an electronic cigarette, or “e-cig,” loaded with a Tootsie Roll-flavored formula.
“I vape on this because when I quit smoking,” says Tammy, “I no longer have that urge for the sweets or the extra food.”
Former smokers such as Tammy credit e-cigs for helping them quit. So they're baffled by what the city of Carlsbad is doing.
“City staff has been monitoring e-cigarettes and seeing that they're becoming more common and more popular,” says communications manager Kristina Ray, “and that our existing laws prohibiting smoking don't include e-cigarettes.”
So the City Attorney suggested the inclusion and the council passed the measure, unanimously, on Tuesday – prompting protest from vape-ers and business owners.
“The reason you cannot smoke cigarettes in public places is because it's harmful,” says Dan Daniel, the co-owner of Mix Vapes, Tammy's hangout. “Electronic cigarettes are not harmful.”
Besides, says Daniel, vaping's good for commerce. “We've brought 700 people to the Village in Carlsbad last month alone. I'm sure the burrito shop owners are loving our customers after they come have a vape.”
The city just wanted to clear the air – literally – to make it less troublesome to enforce anti-smoking laws.
“There's really a few reasons that this was brought forward,” says Ray. “One was enforcement, to make it a little more clear and easy to enforce our smoking laws. And the other is that there are some health effects that are unknown, I guess we could say at this time, still being studied.”
San Diego State University public health professor Thomas Novatny helped write the book on the addictive power of nicotine. He says allowing e-cigs would be a huge step backward.
“Whether they cause cancer or not, I'm not sure it's all that important. But what they do do is normalize smoking. Again, where we've worked so hard to get it out of our restaurants, bars, and worksites, and schools, and every other public place.”
And Carlsbad is just the latest in a trend of local governments saying vapor is the same as smoke. El Cajon, Del Mar, and Solana Beach already include e-cigs in their anti-smoking ordinances. And you wouldn't dare vape in Vista, where the restrictions are especially tight.
Jon Du Pre