Santa Monica is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles and other cities that have decided to treat e-cigarettes like traditional smokes by banning them almost everywhere cigarettes are prohibited, including beaches, parks, bars, restaurants and even "residential common areas."
Phil Daman, president of the Washington, D.C.-based e-cigarette trade group known as the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA), came to Santa Monica to try to persuade the City Council that so-called vaping is not smoking.
He got one, minor victory during this week's decision:
The council granted an exception for vape lounges, which sell e-cigarettes and nicotine e-liquids and which allow people to vape on-site. Daman told us there were at least two in Santa Monica. The City Attorney's office had recommended that no exception be granted.
Daman said it was an important vote because Santa Monica is a cutting-edge town that can set the legal tone for cities across America.
"Santa Monica is very special," Daman, who's a former local resident, said. "It's a thought leader when it comes to social causes and public health."
The City Council ultimately sided with e-cigarette critics who believe the devices are mostly dangerous. The City Attorney summarized the opposition to vaping:
... Consumers have no way to know the levels of various chemicals contained in e-cigarettes; they contain and emit chemicals that are known to be hazardous to human health, both for users and those nearby; and they pose many still-unknown potential health risks, and until they are proven safe their use should be restricted similarly to that of traditional tobacco products.
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The industry argues that there's no hard evidence that second-hand vapor is harmful. It has long said that e-cigarettes, which heat up a mix of nicotine and glycol to produce a vapor that's inhaled, are a healthier alternative for those wanting to quit the carbon-burning practice of smoking.
Daman argues that "defining vaping as smoking makes it part of the problem instead of part of a solution."