The San Diego County Board of Supervisors updated its tobacco ordinances to include electronic smoking devices.
The supervisors’ 5-0 vote May 6 approved the introduction and first reading of the ordinances while a 5-0 vote May 20 approved the second reading and adoption. The ordinance updates, which will become effective June 19, ban the use of electronic smoking devices only on county property.
“We’re not putting this technology out of business. It’s going to be used where smoking is permitted and if people want to stop smoking, God bless them,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, acknowledging the value of electronic cigarettes as a smoking cessation device. “We’re not taking a position in opposition to using them.”
Two Board of Supervisors votes March 11, both by 3-1 margins with Bill Horn in opposition and Roberts in Washington, DC, addressed the issue of electronic cigarettes and other electronic smoking devices. One added electronic smoking devices to the Board of Supervisors policy on tobacco while the other called for the May 6 and May 20 hearings.
Horn’s opposition to the changes in Board of Supervisors Policy A-99, which provides guidelines for county programs addressing tobacco use, prevention, and cessation with an emphasis on reducing access by minors and limiting exposure to second-hand smoke, were based on his views that decisions should be made by adults rather than by government. As an adult in charge of policy for county-owned property, he made the decision against electronic cigarettes in the May votes.
“I think we have no choice here but to protect the public in public spaces,” Horn said.
Many electronic smoking devices contain nicotine and thus pose the same addition and negative health risks as actual smoked tobacco. The contents of the electronic smoking devices also include other harmful carcinogens, small particles, and metals, and since those chemicals have been found in the vapor released when electronic smoking devices are used, bystanders are exposed to those toxins.
Horn, who is also the County of San Diego’s representative on the North County Transit District board, noted that banning electronic smoking devices on public property also provided a clarification benefit. “It’s difficult in a public space, especially in a park and on our trains and on our buses, to have the enforcement to differentiate,” he said.
One of the new ordinance updates addressed the use of electronic smoking devices in and around public buildings and other county facilities while the other regulated electronic smoking devices in county parks and on county trails.
Both changes incorporated the Board Policy A-99 update which defines “electronic smoking device” as an electronic and/or battery-operated device which may resemble smoking and can be used to deliver an inhaled dose of nicotine or other substances. Such devices can include electronic cigars, cigarillos, pipes, and hookahs, and the definition excludes any product specifically approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.
The definition additions to both ordinances also defined “smoking” or “smoke” for electronic smoking devices as the use of a device intended to emulate smoking which permits a person to inhale vapors, mists, or aerosol which may or may not contain nicotine.
The ordinance covering public buildings and facilities prohibits the smoking of an electronic smoking device in an enclosed space at a county place of employment, including county-owned and county-leased property, or in an outdoor area within 20 feet of a main entrance, exit, or operable window of a county public building.
The ordinance covering county parks and trails also prevents smoking such devices in an enclosed space. The previous ban on smoking in county parks and on county trails had been covered in a section titled “Fire Hazards and Smoking”; the new ordinance has separate sections for “Fire Hazards” and “Smoking”. The “Fire Hazards” section retains the provisions against igniting a fire other than in a designated fire ring or barbecue provided by the county, igniting a fire when the National Weather Service or the director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation determines that starting a fire is not safe, and discarding any lighted tobacco product or other burning or combustible material near combustible brush, structures, or other substances.
The “Fire Hazards and Smoking” section included a prohibition against carrying a lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, or other smoking device containing tobacco or any other substance and against lighting such a device. That subsection was transferred to the “Smoking” section which also added electronic smoking devices. The “Acts Prohibited on Trails and Pathways” subsection prohibiting smoking devices was amended to add electronic smoking devices.
Both the public buildings and facilities ordinance and the county parks and trails ordinance carry a $100 fine for a first violation, a $200 fine for a second violation within one year, and a $500 fine for a each additional violation within one year.