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Santa Fe city council regulates e-cigarettes

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Electronic cigarettes will be treated the same as real cigarettes in Santa Fe under new amendments to the city’s tobacco procurement and smoke-free ordinances approved by the city council Wednesday night.

That means the sale of e-cigarettes to children under 18 is prohibited and no one is allowed to use electronic smoking devices inside public places such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, theaters, museums and other enclosed areas covered under the smoke-free ordinance.

Exceptions include places where tobacco sale is central to business, such as cigar bars.

Councilor Ron Trujillo brought the amendments before the board, saying he didn’t want to send a message to youth that smoking was OK.

“My motivation came from hearing from concerned parents,” he said the morning after the vote. “It’s technically become an epidemic where you have students 16, 17-years-old all the way down to elementary school getting hold of these. It’s become the newest trend, but it doesn’t send a positive message to our youth.”

During a public hearing on the amendments, several people opposed to the ban said that e-cigarettes helped wean them off smoking real cigarettes. A few said that there was no solid research indicating that e-cigarettes, which are typically battery operated devices with a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution often containing nicotine, are harmful to one’s health.

Trujillo acknowledged there’s not a lot of information about the health effects of e-cigarettes.

“My argument is that the ordinance isn’t about banning them, but putting them under the indoor smoking laws means you guys have to follow the same rules as smokers,” he said. “My main thing is regulating them and making sure they don’t get in the hands of children.”

The smoke-free ordinance now includes a statement that reads, “The use of electronic smoking devices, with or without nicotine as an ingredient models smoking behavior to our youth in a way that suggests smoking any substance is acceptable, regardless of potential or unknown health threats to the user and others.”

No one spoke against the sale of the electronic smoking devices to minors during the public hearing.

The amendments provide identical definitions for “tobacco products” and “electronic smoking devices.”

Tobacco products are defined as “any product that is made from or derived from tobacco or contains nicotine or any substance intended to be inhaled or digested in a way that simulates smoking…”

An electronic smoking device “means any product containing or delivering nicotine or any substance intended for human consumption that can be used by a person to simulate smoking through inhalation of vapor or aerosol from the product.”

The amendment to the smoke-free ordinance adds language stating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and health care providers question the safety of electronic smoking devices for both users and those in close proximity to users. It also notes the FDA has proposed regulating electronic smoking devices as tobacco products and that attorney generals in 40 states, including New Mexico, have followed suit.

The amendments to both ordinances were passed unanimously.

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