Council Unanimously Supports Possible Amendment to Regulate E-Cigarettes

Vapers smoke at Vapes of Wrath in Long Beach. Photo by Jason Ruiz.

The Long Beach City Council unanimously supported a request that the City Attorney look into amending the Municipal Code regarding tobacco include e-cigarettes and vapor devices, as well as products which contain biologically active amounts of nicotine.

The move jumps ahead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is seeking to broaden its oversight to include vaping devices. Since e-cigarettes do not contain direct tobacco but instead concentrated amounts of nicotine and in some cases, merely a flavoring with no nicotine, the FDA has no legal authority of their regulation. Additionally, Long Beach’s actions follows similar regulatory moves taken by Los Angeles, Lakewood, Carson, Bellflower, Seal Beach, Pico Rivera, Temple City, Claremont, Santa Rosa and other California cities.

John Edmond, Chief of Staff for 6th District Councilmember Dee Andrews, noted that the attorney generals in 40 states have requested that FDA increase their oversight over the e-cigarettes market.

“The advertising of e-cigarettes as ‘green and healthy’ could lure adolescents,” Edmond said. “In addition, it permits users to skirt smoke-free laws we enjoy such as those inside movie theaters, restaurants, and other public spaces.”

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As Edmond stated in a presentation given to City Council, e-cigarette companies—largely owned and operated by Big Tobacco—have failed to provide any scientific analysis that ensure their users are not ingesting toxins at a harmful rate or that e-cigarettes are indeed a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes.

The presentation pointed to Chicago City Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair’s recent report, which seeks to ban the devices from everywhere except private homes, vehicles and hotel rooms in America’s third largest city. Choucair’s tests have shown that the so-called “water vapor” from e-cigarettes contain nitrosamines, metals like nickel and arsenic, carbon compounds such as acrolein and formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds such benzene and toluene.

“These are nicotine delivery devices and nicotine is a drug that leads to heart disease and other conditions,” Dr. Mitchell Kushner, a Long Beach health official, said. “Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known—this is the major issue as we continue to study the chemicals that could be present in the vapor.”

City Attorney Charles Parkin will, in addition returning back to council with options that include treating e-cigarettes equal to conventional cigarettes, also bring forth zoning options that will regulate where these devices are sold.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.