California Senate votes to restrict e-cigarettes as tobacco products

California Senate votes to restrict e-cigarettes as tobacco products
Singer Linda Evans blows vapor from an electronic cigarette. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would ban electronic cigarettes from restaurants, theaters and other public places in California where smoking is prohibited to address health concerns.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said his bill would treat e-cigarettes, also known as “vaping” devices, as tobacco products because they often use nicotine and are popular with teenagers.

"Of great concern is that the fastest growth segment of new users is among middle and high school students who are now smoking electronic cigarettes," Leno told his colleagues. "They are advertised on television. They are advertised on billboards."

The measure, which would also subject e-cigarettes to the same licensing requirements as tobacco, was approved by a 24-12 vote, with Sen. Jeff Stone of Murrietta the only Republican to vote for the bill.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar said e-cigarettes work on vapor that does not spread as much as tobacco smoke, so they should be treated differently in public.

"E-cigs are used by people trying to kick the tobacco habit," Huff said. He voted against the bill, saying the state should wait until the federal government takes action.

Stone noted that his mother was a former smoker who died of cancer. He said the tobacco and vaping industries are marketing e-cigarettes to young people with flavors including watermelon, tutti frutti and cotton candy while the vapor has nicotine derived from tobacco. He said "vaping" is a gateway to cigarette smoking.

"Now we are exposing a whole new generation of millenials to this fashionable way of smoking tobacco in a way that is going to jeopardize their lives," Stone said. The measure next goes to the Assembly for consideration.