At the request of Councilman Mike Guingona, Mayor David Canepa recently authorized a special subcommittee to study the issue. Joining Guingona on the subcommittee is Vice Mayor Carol Klatt.
Some city officials are pushing for regulations on e-cigarettes in the same way tobacco use is regulated due to concerns about secondhand smoke and increased use by teenagers. But there has been some disagreement about the extent to which the city should regulate sales of the electronic devices.
Guingona says the city’s three dedicated “vape shops” — stores that specialize in selling liquid nicotine and electronic devices used for vaporizing and inhaling the liquid blends — should continue to operate, but he hasn’t taken a position on whether additional businesses should be allowed to open in Daly City.
Canepa, on the other hand, has expressed support for enacting a 45-day moratorium on new vape shops while the city studies the issue. The mayor noted that under current city law, any application to open a shop in Daly City could be approved without City Council review. Existing vape shops in town would not be affected by the proposed moratorium, he said.
A leading concern in the local push to regulate e-cigarettes is secondhand smoke. Guingona has previously collaborated with the nonprofit Breathe California Golden Gate Public Health Partnership on its anti-smoking initiatives, and he has advocated for amending the city’s secondhand smoke ordinance to prohibit e-cigarette smoking in locations where tobacco smoking is prohibited. Canepa is also in favor of such an amendment.
“Not enough is known about the potential health effects of using these products, and I’m not satisfied that they’re as safe as their proponents make them out to be,” Guingona said. “I don’t mind if you vape. Just don’t do it around people who don’t want to be exposed to it.”
Klatt said modifying the city’s secondhand smoke ordinance to include e-cigarettes could be as simple as adding one sentence to the existing law. Other cities have faced few challenges in efforts to amend their secondhand smoke ordinances, she noted.
The reported rise in e-cigarette use by teens has been another key concern for cities seeking to regulate the devices. San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer said although it’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes to people under 18 years of age, police recently caught two local merchants allegedly selling the products to minors. The vaporizers can also be used to smoke illegal drugs, such as hash oil and the recently outlawed synthetic drug commonly referred to as spice, she said.
Manheimer further noted that in many cases, vape retailers also sell other types of smoke shop paraphernalia.
But visitors to Vape Dreams in Daly City won’t find the kinds of items typically associated with head shops. An employee named Miles, who declined to give his last name, said the décor is more reminiscent of a computer store than a smoke shop, because the retailer sees itself as a high-end electronics vendor and offers everything from $40 starter kits to premium “mods” — custom vaporizers — priced around $260. Miles, who previously worked as a science tutor, described vaping as a hobby, and said he was drawn to it by his fascination with its science and technical aspects. He said store employees advise customers not to expose others to secondhand smoke.
“There’s an etiquette to our hobby,” he noted.
South San Francisco resident Rich Casuga, who credits e-cigarettes with helping him kick a 25-year tobacco cigarette habit, agreed that retailers like Vape Dreams encourage responsible vaping.
“A lot of shops tell you, ‘Don’t do this around other people,’” Casuga said. “They encourage you to just be respectful.”