By Kristina Houck

Del Mar is the latest city in San Diego County to ban electronic cigarettes.

In a unanimous vote, the Del Mar City Council on April 7 amended the city s existing smoking ordinance to ban the use of e cigarettes in all public places where smoking is prohibited.

We re just really excited about you extending the language or description of tobacco products to include e cigarettes and vape pens, said Judi Strang, executive director of San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth. You re part of a vanguard of cities.

E cigarettes are battery powered devices that simulate tobacco smoking, but do not contain tobacco. Users inhale vaporized liquid that may or may not contain nicotine and can include a variety of flavors.

Supporters argue e cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, while critics contend they encourage use by young people.

Although the actual health risks are a subject of debate, the American Lung Association has called for regulation of these devices to protect public health, citing two initial studies that show e cigarettes emit chemicals such as formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco specific nitrosamines.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an increase in e cigarette related calls to poison centers, noted Barbara Gordon, who is also with the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, during the meeting.

According to the study, the number of calls to poison centers involving e cigarette liquids containing nicotine increased from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014. More than half of the calls to poison centers due to e cigarettes involved children under age 5, and about 42 percent of the poison calls involved people age 20 and older.

The study found the number of calls per month involving conventional cigarettes did not show a similar increase during the same time period.

This study must serve as a wake up call, not just to parents to keep the e cigarette liquid out of the hands of children, but also to adult users to take extreme precaution when coming into contact with this e liquid, said Gordon, who also serves as vice chair of the Tobacco Control Coalition of San Diego County.

We re not here to prohibit e cigarettes, but to prohibit their use anywhere you cannot smoke a traditional tobacco product. By regulating where e cigarettes can be smoked, you are sending a message that you care about the health of all residents.

Current state law prohibits e cigarette sales to minors but does not regulate where the devices can be used. Del Mar is the latest city in San Diego County to ban e cigarettes in public places.

Carlsbad, Encinitas, Oceanside, Poway, Solana Beach and Vista have also passed similar regulations. El Cajon, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and San Diego are currently developing new regulations or policies.

In some ways, these are much more dangerous to the user than they are to bystanders who don t get second hand smoke. They re also dangerous to kids, said Councilman Don Mosier. I think to the extent that we can discourage use of e cigarettes that s important policy objective of the city.

This is just the beginning. I think as we learn more about e cigarettes, we may have some more special requirements for regulation.

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She denied the government was dragging its heels, saying the final legislation had to be “robust” and part of broader efforts to combat smoking and all “stakeholders” had to have their say.

But she said the government’s intention was “clear” and she promised changes before the next election in May 2015, although MPs would be given a vote on the proposals before they came into force.

A succession of Conservative backbenchers attacked the plan, saying it was an example of the “nanny state” and that there were enough warnings about the dangers of smoking already.

Robert Halfon, who successfully campaigned for a cut in bingo tax, said “Conservatives believe in freedom and the best way to stop people smoking is through education and not by banning things.”

Print workers

He said there would be a “huge impact on small shops and small businesses” if standardised packaging went ahead.

Jacob Rees Mogg said Sir Cyril’s report had found it was too early to draw any any firm conclusions from the Australian legislation and said the findings were “indirect and speculative”.

“As the government may be taking away a freedom from the British people oughtn’t it to be more certain of its ground?” he asked.

Dame Angela Watkinson said “Nobody in this country smokes in ignorance and people who do so do it as a deliberate choice.”

Public health minister Jane Ellison said MPs would get a vote on the issue Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford backed a ban

Labour MP Diana Johnson said Dame Angela had accepted a gift from Japan Tobacco, makers of Benson and Hedges cigarettes. The register of members’ interests shows the Hornchurch MP accepted hospitality and two tickets to last year’s Chelsea Flower show, worth 1,260.

Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford, a dentist, backed the ban, telling those protesting against it “If I could arrange for them to come into an operating theatre to see the damage that oral cancer does to people they might actually change their mind.”

Most Labour MPs who spoke supported legislation but Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe warned about the impact on print workers in his constituency if branding was removed from cigarette packets.

The British Medical Association welcomed the minister’s statement but said there should be no further delays to legislation.

Dr Ram Moorthy, deputy chair of the BMA’s Board of Science, said “As doctors we see first hand every day the devastating effects of tobacco addiction and we call on the government to make a decision quickly and to introduce standardised packaging at the earliest possible opportunity in order to help put an end to a life long addiction that kills and destroys health.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said “The Welsh Government has long been a proponent of standardised packaging of tobacco products and we recognise that has the potential to be an important tool in our bid to reduce the harm from tobacco related illness.

“We are therefore delighted with today’s announcement that the UK government will go ahead with standardised packaging. This will also apply to Wales, following a short consultation on draft regulations.”