Health officials hope a new set of rules will make electronic cigarettes as taboo as conventional smokes.
Citing fears of toxic chemicals and corrupting the youth, Santa Clara County supervisors voted unanimously to update an anti-smoking ordinance to include e-cigs. That means no lighting up—even electronically—in pretty much any county property or unincorporated part of the South Bay.
E-cigs, more commonly called vaporizers or vapes, use a battery to heat up a nicotine-infused, often flavored liquid. Instead of smoke, they emit sweet-scented puffs of ephemeral vapor.
Supervisor Ken Yeager, who led the charge for stricter rules, says they also emit toxins, encourage more nicotine use, entice kids to smoke and “threaten the county’s goal of promoting a healthy community.”
Research backing that up is nominal but growing, and federal regulations are far behind the burgeoning vape trend. The worry has more to do with social norms and the threat of undoing work from all the anti-tobacco campaigning that’s cut back the nation’s smoking habit, says county Health Officer Sara Cody.
“The lack of regulation … [has] contributed to increasing social acceptance of e-cigarettes and the misperception that these products are somehow safe,” she says, adding that vapes could act as gateway to traditional tobacco-packed cigarettes.