E-cigarettes claim to help people stop smoking, but the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors wants to know just how safe e-cigarettes are, and they will consider whether they should be subject to the same laws as traditional tobacco products.
"I want to get off cigarettes. I’ve been smoking too long already," e-cigarette user Terry Reynolds said.
Reynolds said he is hoping an e-cigarette will help him quit completely.
"Honestly, it tastes just like a real cigarette to me," he said.
Billed as a safer, cleaner way to get a nicotine fix, electronic cigarettes are gaining in popularity. But how safe they are is still up for debate.
"I don’t like them blazing on a trolley while my kids are there," San Jose resident Juan Galdan said. "I just don’t like it. I look at it just like a cigarette."
Eliza Morales of San Jose offers another point of view.
"It’s a water vapor," she said. "There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a water vapor. It’s equivalent to chewing gum. Nobody would ever know what it is. If it wasn’t shaped like a cigarette no one would ever know."
On Tuesday, Santa Clara County supervisors will join the debate, considering a resolution that would subject e-cigarettes to the existing anti-tobacco laws, making them illegal to use in all county buildings and within 30 feet of any outdoor service area--like a ticket line.
"I don’t think it’s right," Reynolds said. "Here we are trying to quit and doing the best we can, and with this, it's not tobacco smoke, so I think we should be able to do that."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that e-cigarette vapors do contain carcinogens, but it is too soon to know the health risks. Multiple studies are now underway.
"I think right now it is simply just the unknown, and because it’s unknown, people have a tendency to reject it or at least hold it at arms length," Great Vape Inc. owner Robert Jones said.
Jones also said there should be both federal and local regulations in place, but he said he thinks lawmakers are putting the cart before the horse.
"I think that the way that a lot of the cities are going about this is just a bit out of sequence," he said. "I think the research should come in before the regulations."
The Board of Supervisors will take up the issue on Tuesday.