Vaping ban passes LA City Council

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Vaping at the Vapor Lodge in Orange, CA. Photo by Lindsay Fox.

“Vaping” – the practice of smoking e-cigarettes – is about to be a lot more restricted in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles City Council today banned “vaping” inside bars, nightclubs, restaurants and other public areas where tobacco smoking is restricted.

Vaping lounges and stores will be exempted from the ban.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, a co-sponsor of the ban, says the council is taking a sensible, fair approach to regulation that controls the second-hand exposure from electronic cigarettes.

“We know that this device is a nicotine delivery device, which is severely addictive and is not good for anyone who chooses to use that,” O’Farrell said.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer calls the council’s decision a “common sense approach.”

“The regulation we’re putting on the table today will be protective of public health because it sets forth the principle that we need to take science seriously but act with caution to assure the safety and health of our families, of our young people, of our workers, of all of us,” Feuer  said.

Health experts are welcoming the decision, including Linda Sarna, an oncology nurse who led the effort to ban all tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, at UCLA.

“It was included as part of UCLA’s tobacco-free policy and we’ve been able to survive,” Sarna said, “and I think other parts of the community will be able to survive without vaping as well.”

Others say there’s a lack of research on e-cigarette safety and that it could be a gateway for young people into smoking.

But opponents of the ban say e-cigarettes lack the toxic tars of tobacco cigarettes.  Mark Kleinman, a professor of public policy at UCLA’s Luskin School, thinks the potential benefits of e-cigarettes instead of tobacco outweigh the potential risks.

“I think e-cigarettes are the most promising technology for reducing the number of deaths and illnesses due to smoking,” Kleinman said. “And I think anything that discourages the e-cigarette is bad from a public health point of view.”

Supporters of the regulation say e-cigarettes, which come in bubble gum, fruit and other similar flavors, are being marketed to youth.

An amendment by Councilman Joe Buscaino that would have allowed an exemption for bars failed on an 8 to 6 vote.

Buscaino 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.