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Oside Pulls the Battery on E-Cigs

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by: Ruarri Serpa

Oceanside CA-  Oceanside will soon ban electronic smoking devices in public places, joining several other cities in San Diego county that have chosen to act before any state, or federal agencies weigh in. The unanimous vote by City Council will also allow the the City to control future retail sale through an amendment to the zoning ordinance.

“It’s appearance as opposed to facts,” said Fabi Elias-Ramsey, owner of Feels Good Vapor on Coast Highway.

“I saw 14, and 15 year-olds smoking these, and decided to act on it,” said Councilman Jerry Kern.

Under the City Council’s direction, Oceanside will treat e-cigarette products like tobacco, which means no more vaping in public parks, on beaches, in City Hall Plaza, or inside buildings. The move is similar to restrictions enacted in several other cities in San Diego County.

Opponents to the ban argue that e-cigarettes are a cleaner, and safer way to help tobacco smokers quit. Supporters are fearful that e-cigarettes will influence children to smoke tobacco, and illegal drugs.

Noting the presence of e-cigarette vendors in malls, and near ice cream shops, Oceanside City Council went a step further than other cities by amending the zoning ordinance. The new ordinances allows the city to restrict new businesses that wish to sell e-cigarette products. Supporters of the amendment cited eight Oceanside shops which carried the products at the front counter, or alongside other products, including candy, drinks, and clothing.

But the zoning ordinance won’t affect many of the stores that currently supply the devices.

“This ordinance only affects stores that use shelf space greater than two-feet wide, and four-feet long,” said City Attorney John Mullen.

A display next to the cash register at AM PM, to use the example from the meeting, would not be prohibited from having that display.

“You can’t keep a child of out an AM PM,” said Elias-Ramsey. Her shop excludes minors from the store, and despite focusing exclusively on e-cigarettes, would be grandfathered in under the law.

The federal government is yet to weigh-in on the health effects of e-cigarettes. However, in January the Attorney General said they may help people quit tobacco products. With everyone comparing a tobacco-less product to a cigarette, just how similar is “vaping” to smoking?

The act itself is very similar – someone raises a glowing stick to his or her mouth, and after a few seconds, a cloud of smoke erupts.

But instead of a cloud of tobacco, tar, and associated carginogens, the vapor generated by vaping comes from propylene glycol, one of the key ingredients fog machines, and according to the supporters of the ban, anti-freeze. It’s been marked safe for ingestion by the Food and Drug Administration since the 1970s, but supporters believe that doesn’t cover e-cigarettes.

“Inhalation is different than ingestion,” said Gina Knuston, of Vista Community Clinic’s Tobacco Control Program.

E-Cigarettes can be purchased with nicotine, or free of the addicting additive in traditional cigarettes. There are hundreds of varieties of “juice,” the actual substance of the e-cigarette, including fruit, gum, and cake, which worries supporters of the ban.

There were further concerns about the use of other drugs in e-cigarettes, including one supporter of the ban who cited stories about kids using oxycodon, Xanax, and marijuana.

Elias-Ramsey acknowledged the illegality of those uses, and bristled at comparisons to her shop, and marijuana.
“We provide education on quitting, and finding the right nicotine levels,” said Elias-Ramsey. “They’re missing the point – every person using e-cigarettes is someone who isn’t smoking in your community anymore.”


ruarri_surpa_125Ruarri Serpa is a freelance reporter from Oceanside, CA. You can contact him directly at RuarriS@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @Ruarris

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