Entities across the Peninsula have been scrambling to enact electronic cigarette device policies and the San Mateo County Community College District is the latest to follow suit.
By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the district Board of Trustees moved to ban e-cigarettes on its campuses since officials want to, according to a staff report, “provide a safe learning and working environment for both students and employees.” The staff report noted that there is evidence that vapor from e-cigarettes may be harmful and it is the intent of the district to provide a smoke-free environment to the greatest extent possible.
The board wanted to be out front on this policy, said Barbara Christensen, director of community/government relations for the district.
“All of our policies go through a participatory governance process,” Christensen said. “One of the faculty staff mentioned the fact we should include e-cigarettes [in the policy]. There was a wide agreement it should be included and so we did.”
The district already prohibits indoors and in all owned or leased district facilities or vehicles. Smoking is prohibited within 20 feet from any district or college doorway, entrance to an interior area or fresh air intake vent.
Each college president, in conjunction with the College Council, has the discretion to set campus smoking regulations as long as smoking is prohibited within a distance of at least 20 feet from any district or college doorway, entrance to an interior area or fresh air intake vent. E-cigarettes would just be added to the smoking policy restrictions, according to the staff report.
“It restricts them (e-cigarettes) to stay so far away from the buildings and helps the nonsmokers,” said board President Karen Schwarz.
Recently, South San Francisco banned the use of e-cigarettes 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.
The restriction of sales is another piece of some of the precautionary measures being taken with regard to e-cigarettes. South San Francisco 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. 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, according to a staff report.
On a broader level, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, recently called on Congress to investigate the health effects of e-cigarettes and the industry’s presence in the marketplace.
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