San Diego County takes steps to regulate e-cigarettes

Wednesday, March 12—

San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took two actions intended to limit the use of electronic-smoking devices.

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The board voted 3-1 to add several types of such devices to its anti-tobacco policy, and ordered staffers to look into outlawing the devices in county areas where traditional cigarettes are banned.

Staffers were given until May 6 to draft a proposal to have electronic smoking devices mirror the county’s policy banning conventional cigarettes in county public places, workplaces and indoor facilities in unincorporated areas.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, recommended that county policies give electronic smoking devices and conventional cigarettes equal standing.

The board also approved updating the wording in its tobacco use, cessation and prevention policy — which already covered electronic cigarettes — to include several similar devices like electronic cigars, cigarillos, pipes and hookah. The policy emphasizes reducing minors’ access and limiting exposure to secondhand smoke.

Supervisor Dave Roberts said the devices, some of which are decorated with cartoon video game characters, were gaining popularity with county youths.

Others are disguised to look like asthma inhalers or soda cans with straws, he said.

“E-cigarettes are likely to be a gateway device for nicotine addiction among children,’’ Roberts said.

Supervisor Bill Horn, who cast the dissenting vote, said the smoking devices were a valid tool for those trying to quit smoking, and were not combustible, did not emit an offensive odor and many had less nicotine than regular cigarettes. Also, he said a law barring minors from accessing the devices should be discussed at the state level.

“I don’t think we ought to be telling adults that they can’t use these things if they’re trying to get off nicotine,” Horn said.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob disagreed, saying electronic smoking devices did not lessen tobacco addiction.

“The answer to smoking is stop smoking or don’t start in the first place,” Jacob said.

   
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