In La Mesa, California, vaping is quickly becoming a routine way of life for many former smokers. Yet despite the numerous locals that have successfully left tobacco behind with a little help from ecigs, city officials were adamant that vaping should be banned from parks, playgrounds, and even restaurants.
During a July 8 city council meeting, frustrated council member Kristine Alessio brought along a cigarette and an e-cig so the rest of the officials could actually see the difference. She explained that she quit smoking years ago, but she wanted them to see the obvious difference. First, she lit a cigarette and blew the smoke out into the room. Then she puffed on an ecig and blew out a little puff of vapor. “There’s a huge difference,” she explained. “Cigarette smoke is far different than e-cigarette smoke.” The ecig vapor dissipated within a few seconds, but the cigarette smoke hung in the air, spreading the undeniable odor to the audience. Eventually another council member, Ernie Ewin, opened a door in an attempt to clear the room of smoke.
Despite Allesio’s demonstration, the council still moved forward with plans to restrict vaping in public places and directed the city staff members to create an official ordinance to be approved at the next meeting. The council asked for vaping to be prohibited in parks, playgrounds, indoor public spaces, and basically anywhere that a tobacco cigarette is unwelcome. When the council reconvened last week, the majority voted to adopt the new ordinance.
Allesio still stood in absolute opposition. “I think it’s government overreach,” she argued. “I have an extreme sensitivity to perfume. Should we regulate perfume in parks?” Ewin also expressed some hesitation, but he eventually caved and voted in favor of the new ordinance. “How are you going to enforce it?” he asked the other council members. “There’s going to have to be a lot of public relations support in order to get the word out and make sure that this being accepted as a positive and that everybody has a vested interest in this.”
Mayor Art Madrid dismissed Ewin’s concerns and reminded the council that residents were unhappy about vaping in public places. He claimed that the citizens were demanding the ordinance be passed and he urged the council to do what the public wanted. Council member Mark Arapostathis voted in favor of the ordinance because he felt that local business owners would benefit from it and many were asking for ecigs to be regulated. However, a survey of owners at local restaurants and bars presented a different story altogether.
At Chico Club, vapers have occasionally been resistant to taking their ecigs outdoors. Owner Larry Fox said he deals with ecigs as the incidents arise. He only asks vapers to go out to the patio if another customer complains. At Centifonti’s Bar and Restaurant, owner Carol Tolosko said ecigs have never posed any problems. She simply asks vapers to take a table outdoors and no one has ever refused.
At Hoffer’s Cigar Bar, owner Phil Hoffman and a few of his friends offered some skeptical remarks about the new ordinance. “The first startling thing is that it looks like smoking, and I think that’s what people are upset about… sometimes it’s like heavy perfume – it’s hard to handle. But should we nanny-state legislate it?” Resident Mike Lambert agreed with Hoffman. “It’s kind of unfair to smokers,” he commented.
For now, city officials are moving forward with the ordinance. If it continues to completion, La Mesa residents will begin to see the changes implemented in the fall.