Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

City Council Stubs Out Public E-Cigarettes

Following the city council's meeting on Tuesday evening, action has been put forth on banning the public use of e-cigarettes. The unanimous decision is raising questions over the validity of this new generation of smoking, particularly as now over 45 cities in California are getting behind the ban.

E-cigarettes hit the US market in 2008, and have since boomed across the world. The e-cigarette stimulates tobacco smoking by vaporizing a mixture of propylene glycol, nicotine and various flavorings. Though it has been marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, there has been contestation as to whether this is true, and our own Santa Monica has declared e-cigarettes on a par with tobacco smoking, it appears that this alternative is losing its public appeal.

In addition, previous evidence suggests e-cigarettes may be safer than smoking tobacco products, and possibly as safe as other nicotine replacement products. However, there is insufficient data to draw such conclusions, and the recent growing reports of dangerous malfunctions as e-cigarettes explode has ameliorated people's disillusionment with them.

Just 3 months ago, the council directed the city attorney's office to research and analyse the regulation of e-cigarettes 'with consideration of recent actions in neighboring cities', such as Los Angeles, Long Beach and Beverly Hills. The use of e-cigarettes, or 'vaping' will in future be prohibited from all public areas, including clubs, bars and restaurants, with the exception of the only 2 vapor shops in Santa Monica. But why exactly does the council want it off the streets? Tobacco smoking was denied public use primarily due to the concern of passive smoking and the nuisance of smoke in the air. Yet with the e-cigarette avoiding both of these issues is the council simply finding fault for the sake of it? Should the council use science instead of politics?

Of course, there has been an uproar around the increase of young people smoking, particularly as advertisements for e-cigarettes are reaching a younger demographic, with flavours such as cotton candy and gummy bears. However no action is being made over the marketing of e-cigarettes. In April this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed to regulate e-cigarettes as a drug. As such, minors are unable to buy the product and health warnings will be assigned to the packaging. It seems as though the real issue of e-cigarettes inviting younger smokers is not being seen to, which brings us to question whether the council is tackling the right aspect of smoking.

On the other hand, with the demotion of e-cigarettes to the same level of tobacco smoking, the line between the two is becoming blurred, and may even spur on more tobacco smoking as a cheaper alternative to e-cigarettes. This kind of vicious cycle would make the benefits of e-cigarettes lose their value- if they can only be used in areas where normal cigarettes are allowed, what does it matter whether it's vaporised e-liquid or the smoke from tobacco?

Other matters discussed at the city council meeting included the next fiscal year's budget for the Santa Monica Pier Corporation and an update for the city's Coastal Program, yet the prohibition of public e-cigarettes is proving the focus of the matter. Despite Tuesday's aims to "look closely at all of the data regarding public health and regarding other impacts on our town", as stated by Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day, it is clear that the ban on e-cigarettes has overshadowed all discussions at the city council meeting. For many, the ambiguity of e-cigarettes call for this regulation, simply until more information on both short and long term effects of this relatively new product is gathered.


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