SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — The city of South San Francisco has stepped into the debate over electronic cigarettes, issuing a 45-day moratorium on new lounges where e-cigarettes are consumed.
The moratorium will allow the city to study the phenomenon of e-cigarettes and determine whether it needs to change its zoning laws to restrict their use. The halt on new permits and licenses does not apply to retailers.
With a unanimous vote Wednesday night, the South San Francisco City Council joined a growing list of Bay Area cities that are questioning the public health impacts of the smokeless devices, which enable users to inhale the vapor created when a flavored liquid containing nicotine is heated. Union City, for instance, voted last month to ban e-cigarette lounges.
The South San Francisco council does not appear to be leaning toward outright prohibition of “vaping.” Still, council members said they want to know more about the practice, the health effects of which have not been fully researched.
"I’m not completely convinced that e-cigarettes are good or not good at this time," said Councilman Pradeep Gupta. "I don’t know enough about it. I would like to look at the study as a way of getting myself more informed."
Councilman Mark Addiego and Vice Mayor Richard Garbarino supported the moratorium but indicated they were inclined to let adults make their own choices.
"We can’t legislate morality," said Garbarino. "We tried it with Prohibition. Giant failure. We all saw what happened there. We’ve in my opinion lost the war on drugs."
Several proponents spoke in favor of e-cigarettes Wednesday, telling the council it helped them stop smoking actual cigarettes. For Asia Gato, manager of the city’s lone e-cigarette retailer, the Vaping Buddha on West Orange Avenue, e-cigarettes are a less dangerous way to consume nicotine. She quit smoking last year after discovering vaping.
Gato, 36, said Thursday she’s pleased the council excluded retailers from the city’s moratorium, even though that could ultimately lead to more competition.
"We could say we’re the only game in town," she said, "but we believe that access to these devices and these liquids are important."
One concern among critics of e-cigarettes is that, with their variety of sweet flavors, they could entice youths to pick up nicotine habits. Mayor Karyl Matsumoto said she wants the city to consider keeping e-cigarette retailers and lounges away from schools.According to California everything is bad for you. So it really does not surprise to me in any way that San Francisco is looking into the whole “vape scene” Hopefully they make the right choice based on actual evidence, rather than knee jerk reactions by politicians like what happened in NYC. Not exactly sure what keeping e-cig retailers away from schools will accomplish honestly. At LEAST they are taking some time to look at all the fact. -Grimm