The Los Angeles City Council is expected to pass a sweeping electronic cigarette regulation bill on Tuesday that would treat the increasingly popular products like traditional tobacco, banning their use in bars, restaurants, workplaces, and designated public areas.
Once the bill is approved, the three most populous cities in America — New York, Chicago, and LA — will have passed similar restrictions on e-cigarettes affecting nearly 15 million Americans. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, North Dakota, New Jersey, and Utah already have such e-cigarette laws in place.
Representatives of the nearly $2 billion electronic cigarette industry fiercely oppose such bans, arguing that they restrict the use of products that many former tobacco smokers use as a cessation tool.
But some public health advocates and tobacco industry critics say the jury’s still out on the products’ safety. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who wrote the LA law, said, “E-cigarette and big tobacco lobbyists have their talking points very clear — they’re misleading and inaccurate. My mission is to protect public health.” Some studies, including a 2011 analysis by the FDA, have detected carcinogens in e-cigarette vapor.
Major metropolitan regions have been moving forward with their own e-cigarette regulations in the absence of official rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency promised forthcoming guidelines on the marketing and manufacturing of e-cigarettes last year, but have yet to publish them for public comment.
“Having worked with the FDA, having encouraged them to take steps to protect individuals and children, they are usually an agency that leads from behind,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) in a press statement after signing his city’s e-cigarette indoor smoking ban into law. “And when it comes to the city of Chicago, when it comes to the people of the city of Chicago, when it comes to the children of the city of Chicago, I do not believe we should wait.”
Lawmakers on the federal level have also turned their attention to electronic cigarettes. Last week, a group of five U.S. senators led by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced legislation to ban the marketing of e-cigarettes to children based on Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules.