Daly City amends smoking law to include e-cigarettes 

  • Brendan P. Bartholomew/special to the s.f. examiner
In a decision hailed by local health activists, the Daly City City Council has amended its smoking regulations to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in areas where smoking is not allowed.

Hoping to address concerns about secondhand smoke and increased use by teenagers, the city has joined other area cities, including San Francisco, in expanding restrictions on the electronic devices.

Under the new law, smoking of e-cigarettes, also known as “vaping,” within 20 feet of a building exit or entrance used by the public, or any operable window of an indoor area, is prohibited. The ban also applies to places of employment that are not “significant tobacco retailers.”

Depending on how the law is interpreted, this could force changes at the dedicated e-cigarette retailers operating in Daly City. One example is Vape Dreams, which sells liquid nicotine blends and vaporizers, but does not sell tobacco products. The shop claims it only allows customers to smoke non-nicotine blends on the premises, and that those blends are safe to inhale.

Councilman Mike Guingona, who has long championed the update to the city’s secondhand smoke ordinance, said he believes Vape Dreams will be able to continue its current practice of allowing people to vape in the store, because the law does not apply to non-nicotine blends.

But some are not satisfied. Councilman Sal Torres said when his car is stopped at the intersection adjacent to Vape Dreams, he can easily smell the vapor fumes emanating from the store, which concerns him.

Resident Pamela DiGiovanni told the City Council that Vape Dreams’ upstairs neighbor had complained of health issues after the store began operating, but The San Francisco Examiner was unable to verify this claim.

A person answering the intercom at the building’s front door said the occupant in question was out of town, while Vape Dreams regular Peter Truong said he doubted the claim, noting that the upstairs neighbor owns the building and is friendly with the shop’s proprietors.

Staff at the Breathe California Golden Gate Public Health Partnership, a local lung health advocacy group, welcomed news of the city’s decision.

Vice President of Programs Karen Licavoli said studies have disproved the notion that e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool, and claimed their proliferation is an attempt by the tobacco industry to “roll back the clock” on the tobacco control movement.

Addressing claims by vaping enthusiasts that the products satisfy their cravings for nicotine while reducing their exposure to cancer risks associated with conventional cigarettes, Licavoli noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found carcinogens and toxic chemicals in the e-cigarettes it sampled. She believes there isn’t enough data to support the claim that smoking e-cigarettes — or being exposed to their secondhand smoke — is safe.

“E-cigarettes have only just popped up in the last five years,” Licavoli noted. “Cancer can take 10 to 15 years to show up.”

Mayor David Canepa said he’s concerned about the industry’s proliferation in the community, noting that he was troubled to learn that a new vape shop had recently opened on Gellert Boulevard. He expressed interest in exploring whether land-use laws might allow the city to more tightly regulate such businesses and prevent new ones from coming to town.

Although Guingona spearheaded the campaign to apply secondhand smoke laws to e-cigarettes, he said he’s not convinced businesses lawfully selling the products to adults are a problem.

“If it’s something that needs to be studied or discussed, then by all means, let’s have that conversation,” Guingona said, “I’d like to hear what’s going on, but I’m not hearing people in the community saying they don’t like these places.”

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