Long Beach Joins Other Cities in Proposing E-Cigarette Regulation

Photo by Jason Ruiz.

A Long Beach City Council agenda item proposed for tonight’s meeting seeks to restrict the way e-cigarette users use their vaporizers in public, as cities across the nation and world question the supposed benefits they provide chronic cigarette smokers in quitting and the possible adverse health affects they might have on the public.

Councilmembers Dee Andrews and Suja Lowenthal are proposing that the City Attorney amend the Municipal Code to require vaporizing devices, including e-cigarettes, to be included within the City’s tobacco ordinance. This would put e-cigarettes on the same legal level as normal cigarettes, where they will be prohibited for use in certain locations and banned from “No Smoking” areas.

First introduced in 2007, the increasing use of e-cigarettes—an industry that last year garnered over $1B in sales, with expectation to grow to $10B within five years—has been spurred by the perception that the devices are a way to quit smoking and are a healthier alternative to normal cigarettes.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has publicly stated its inability to know if such claims are true since e-cigarettes are concentrated nicotine—not tobacco—which is not subject to federal regulation. This lack of regulation has not stopped the FDA, which is seeking to broaden its oversight to include vaping devices.

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Opponents to the increased oversight of the FDA—largely driven by tobacco lobbyists and e-cigarette supporters—stated in a presentation that the e-cigarette business is a “desperately needed new approach to stopping tobacco smoking” and that if we are “serious about reducing spiraling healthcare costs, there is no better way to have a dramatic and near term impact than fostering e-cigarette use.” The presentation also claimed a fear that the growing small business hub around e-cigarettes, including the many new vaping shops in Long Beach, could be harmed if regulation is increased.

Cities are beginning to regulate without waiting however—and not just due to possible direct health issues, but social perception that affects children as well. According to the most recent statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of US middle and high school students using e-cigarettes more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. 

“The increased use of e-cigarettes by teens is deeply troubling,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a CDC press release. “Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Many teens who start with e-cigarettes may be condemned to struggling with a lifelong addiction to nicotine and conventional cigarettes.”

The agenda item to call on the City Attorney to force vaping devices, including e-cigarettes, to comply with the City’s tobacco ordinance will be presented at tonight’s City Council meeting.

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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.