Calling it a potential health risk and a gateway to tobacco, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to regulate the sales of e-cigarettes and other "vaping" devices.
The new law regulates electronic smoking devices as a tobacco product, subjecting their sales to the same restrictions as tobacco. It bans the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and from street kiosks, ice-cream trucks and self-service displays.
Vendors would also be required to obtain a license before selling the products. Parallel legislation under city consideration would ban the use of e-cigarettes in the same places that tobacco is prohibited, including restaurants and parks.
"It's important to protect young people from this deadly habit and to protect people from second-hand smoke," said Councilman Paul Koretz, who pushed the ordinance.
The battery-operated devices look like cigarettes and use heat to vaporize a liquid, some containing nicotine and fruit and candy flavorings, that is inhaled by the smoker. Use of so-called vaping devices among high school students doubled in 2012 to 10%, according to a recent study by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though the safety of inhaling the vapors is uncertain, City Council members said it was better to error on the side of caution and take action. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the devices.
"It's a very sinister approach to a very sinister product,'' said Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who wrote action regulating use of e-smoking devices. "We don't want to wait for the feds to do something."
Schools principals told the council that some of their students are loading e-cigarettes with marijuana cartridges and using the devices to smoke pot at school. Several speakers applauded the council's action, including Marlene Gomez of the American Lung Assn.
The health risks of inhaling vapors are not yet known, yet the devices are being marketed to children, Gomez said.
"Many products are being produced that are candy-flavored or fruit-flavored including Cap'n Crunch and Fruit Loops,'' she said.