Preventing exposure to secondhand smoke and limiting exposure of minors to activity that may increase the social acceptance of smoking is the idea behind South San Francisco’s ban of using electronic cigarette devices in city spaces while officials also work on gathering information on the ramifications of allowing e-cigarette-centered businesses into the city.
Smoking an e-cigarette is now prohibited in city buildings; city-owned parking structures; city vehicles; parks and recreation areas zoned for that purpose; within 20 feet of a main exit, entrance or operable window of any city facility or building; city-owned parking lots and open-air public places on city-owned property per a vote by the City Council Wednesday night. The ordinance follows the laws the city has about smoking tobacco in parks and city property, according to a staff report.
“It’s limited in scope,” said Councilman Mark Addiego. “It takes care of city property. We don’t want to encourage young people to try it. It seems to be something young people tend to gravitate to. We’re looking at being more restrictive in the downtown area, but want to talk to merchants first so we don’t impact their business.”
The city held a study session in March on extending e-cigarette restrictions to downtown, said Councilwoman Liza Normandy.
The city currently has a moratorium on the establishment of e-cigarette lounges, hookah bars and smoking lounges, fearing e-cigarettes could be as harmful as cigarettes. It would also apply to retailers that devote more than 15 percent of their total floor area, or more than a 2-by-4-foot area of shelf space, to e-cigarette sales, and wouldn’t apply to retailers that sell e-cigarettes as a smaller component of their businesses. In the meantime, staff would review and study potential zoning amendments to limit e-cigarette sales, according to a staff report. Until there are more federal guidelines and scientific research, the city will hold off on allowing businesses that predominately carry e-cigarettes to open in the city.
Councilmembers are in favor of such restrictions, including Vice Mayor Richard Garbarino.
“We can’t tell people what to ingest,” he said. “We want to restrict the number of venues people could purchase them at. … I don’t want to see smoking parlors come into our city. Parlors encourage young people to participate in these things.”
The violation for smoking an e-cigarette has the same penalty as for smoking tobacco. The penalty would count as an infraction, coming with a maximum fine of $100 for a first time violation, said Assistant City Manager Jason Rosenberg.
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