Los Angeles Latest to Propose E-Cig Ban

Electronic cigarette makers, consumers speak out against proposal

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Richard Carmona

Richard Carmona

LOS ANGELES -- First it was New York City. Then came Chicago. Now Los Angeles is looking to become the latest metropolis to ban public use of electronic cigarettes, with the City Council's Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River committee unanimously approving a proposal on Monday. According to the Los Angeles Times, L.A.'s City Council will vote on the ordinance next week.

If the measure passes, use of e-cigarettes would be banned in most public places--including beaches, restaurants and public parks--however, vape shops would be exempt.

"For anyone to say that e-cigarettes are not harmful, I think they are taking us down the same path that the tobacco industry said in 1954 that cigarettes were not harmful," Councilman Bernard Parks said at Monday's meeting.

E-cigarette companies and consumers joined local bar owners and business leaders in opposing the law, pointing out that there is not yet scientific evidence to support this kind of extreme ban.

"You should have the facts straight and the science right before you regulate e-cigarette use," said Ruben Gonzalez, vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

City attorney Mike Feuer argued that--regardless of the science--electronic cigarette should be treated like tobacco products because of public perception.

"Even if it were determined later on that the emissions from e-cigarettes aren't dangerous to a bystander in an outside environment, the existence of devices like this … in public places does threaten to renormalize the behavior of smoking," he said Monday.

Meanwhile, opponents of the ban fear that restrictions could have the opposite effect, making combustible products more tempting. Charles D. Connor, former president and CEO of the American Lung Association and current consultant for the Electronic Cigarette Industry Group Inc., made his case in an opinion piece on California's Fox & Hounds business blog.

"This proposal is misguided," he said. "It would do a public health disservice, discouraging smokers from switching to less-harmful electronic cigarettes that do not combust tobacco and therefore, do not create second-hand smoke," he wrote.

Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona—who now serves on the board of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based e-cig maker NJOY—expressed similar concerns last week.

"A well-intentioned but scientifically unsupported effort like the current proposal could greatly impede the effort to defeat tobacco smoking," Carmona told the Los Angeles Daily News. "This regulation, if passed, would disincentivize smokers from switching to e-cigarettes, since many initially switch for reasons of convenience. It would also send the unintended message to smokers that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as tobacco smoking, with the result that many will simply continue to smoke their current toxic products."