Councilman Mark Kersey proposed Thursday that the city of San Diego implement regulations to address the proliferation of electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as e-cigarettes.
In a memo to the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee, of which Kersey is a member, he asked to docket an item to begin considering regulations for the products.
Kersey said e-cigarettes should be regulated in the same manner as traditional cigarettes, which would prohibit their use at parks, libraries, public facilities like Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park, and inside restaurants and bars.
"There are a lot of questions about the safety of e-cigarettes both for users and those who may inhale the second-hand vapor," Kersey said. "We didn't know the true health impacts of secondhand smoke from regular cigarettes until much later and I simply don't want to take the same risk with this new form of nicotine."
E-cigarettes, or vapor inhalers, allow users to puff on synthetic nicotine without also inhaling tar and some other harmful substances common to regular cigarettes. The battery-operated devices, which can be purchased online and in smoke shops, do not use tobacco.
Instead, the devices use liquid nicotine, known as "smoke juice." But instead of smoke, when exhaled, the e-cigarettes emit a vapor.
According to Kersey, there is no regulation or oversight of the production of liquid nicotine, and very little research exists as to the safety of the vapor for those who may inhale it secondhand.
He said the hundreds of smoke juice flavors, which include cola and peppermint patty, make e-cigarettes appear designed to appeal to youth. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that e-cigarette usage among middle and high school students doubled between 2011 and 2012.
"By leaving e-cigarettes unregulated, we could undo the incredible progress that's been made educating our children on the dangers of nicotine addiction and ease the transition toward other dangerous tobacco products," Kersey said.
The county of San Diego is crafting e-cigarette regulations for unincorporated areas. The councilman said Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are also considering regulations of the devices.