Smoking e-cigarettes is getting harder to do in parts of the Bay Area after the San Francisco and Santa Clara County boards of supervisors approved restrictions on the devices on Tuesday.
The smoking devices are battery-operated and involve inhaling a vaporized liquid that can include nicotine and other substances.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took on the issue at the meeting March 25, and approved preliminary changes to the county's no-smoking policy to include restrictions on e-cigarette use and sales where cigarettes are banned, including at county facilities, parks, hospitals, and areas near county buildings, along with apartment buildings, hotels and motels.
The board agreed that there would be restrictions for e-cigarette sales similar to those for regular cigarettes.
A more comprehensive ordinance covering e-cigarette regulations will be back for a board vote in May.
A staff report compiled for the meeting stated, "Unfortunately, the rapidly increasing use of e-cigarettes threatens to undo much of the social norm change around tobacco."
According to the staff report, while there are no federal regulations yet, "over 100 cities and counties across the United States, including more than 40 counties and cities in California, have placed restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes."
Supervisor Ken Yeager said he is concerned that the devices are being marketed to young people and have unknown health consequences.
"It's harder to know exactly the health impacts on people who inhale the vapors from these e-cigarettes, but we know that they are being very much marketed to youth, and that is a great concern given all of the efforts that we have done to discourage people, particularly minors, from smoking," he said at today's meeting.
Detractors of the e-cigarette bans include members of the state chapter of NORML, or the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and the national Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association.
The groups are concerned about restrictions on vaporizer use, which would impact medical marijuana and other non-tobacco product users.
Supporters of e-cigarettes fear medical marijuana users will be forced to smoke outside with cigarette smokers, and that new laws will impact people who use the device to stop cigarette use.
The groups also say there is scarce evidence on the health risks involved with using e-cigarettes and that the faux cigarettes may be a safer alternative.
An ordinance regulating use and sales of electronic cigarettes was unanimously passed in a final vote at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors' meeting March 25.
E-cigarettes will be treated like other tobacco products and will have sale restrictions and age limitations like their traditional counterparts.
San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar sponsored the bill that prohibits use of electronic cigarettes where traditional cigarettes are already banned. According to Mar, there are potential health risks from the vapors released, and flavors such as grape, peach and chocolate are enticing youths to use the product.