RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) - Two California cities have voted to ban electronic cigarettes while a motion will be introduced Wednesday in Los Angeles to limit the smokeless devices where cigarette smoking is already prohibited.
Both the cities of Richmond and Carlsbad voted to prohibit the battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale nicotine vapor instead of tobacco fumes.
Proponents believe e-cigarettes are cleaner and healthier than their tobacco-filled counterpart. But city leaders and health advocates said the devices may be dangerous to smokers and can serve as a gateway to smoking cigarettes for children.
“It’s not a ban on the product, but it will protect the public health from what’s essentially an unknown and unregulated product,” said Lorenzo Higley, chairperson of the San Diego Tobacco Control Coalition told NBC San Diego.
Electronic cigarette sales surged from about 50,000 in 2008 to 3.5 million in 2012, and the number of children who reported trying the product has increased, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. E-cigarettes are not yet regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration agency.
The ban in Carlsbad, a suburb about 20 miles north of San Diego, covers all places where smoking is banned, including parks, beaches and restaurants with outdoor dining, according to UT San Diego. In Richmond, which is near Oakland, those who violate the new law can be fined up to $1,000.
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In Los Angeles, city councilmembers will consider two motions dealing with e-cigarettes - one that seeks to regulate sales to kids and another that directs the city attorney to draft an ordinance to regulate the use of electronic smoking devices in areas where smoking is banned.