Like many paid programming and cigarette fanatics, you may have seen the above e-cigarette commercial hitting the airwaves, promising both a healthier cigarette and one that you can smoke in say, restaurants and bars. Although it’s currently legal to smoke these psuedo-cigs indoors, a recent decision by the FDA to regulate e-smokes as tobacco products has some wondering if a San Francisco ban will be soon to follow.

On Monday the FDA said “that it plans to regulate smokeless electronic cigarettes as tobacco products and won’t try to regulate them under stricter rules for drug-delivery devices.” While manufacturers of the devices say they were happy with the ruling, saying that rules will help in “weeding out the shady companies.”

However, by treating the e-cigs like traditional cigarettes, says the Weekly, the FDA is “making it that much easier for local politicians to justify a blanket restriction on e-smokers. “

As ABC7 reports, city officials don’t necessarily need the FDA to tell them that e-cigarettes are cigarettes: earlier this month SFO banned electronic cigarettes from its facility and now the rest of the city is, they report, going to follow suit.

“The San Francisco Health Department says if it looks like a cigarette and acts like a cigarette it is a cigarette and needs the same restrictions” says ABC7, “The plan is to fold them into the current smoking ordinance, saying that anything that looks, feels or functions like a cigarette is a cigarette and has to be banned from public places.”

Understandably, the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association is miffed. They say the ban is ignorant and that cigarettes don’t emit much of anything, save for noncarcinogenic vapors.

Says group spokesperson Ray Story, “To have a product and ban a product you have to show cause, you have to show at one point in time that this product has harmed someone.”

In fact, Story tells SF Weekly, a ban might harm innocent e-cig smokers, as “They’d be pushed to specific places (with smokers) so now they would be subject to second-hand smoke.”

Dr. Tomas Aragon, the city’s health officer, disagrees, telling ABC7 that “e-cigarettes are just another nicotine delivery system and send a message to youth that some smoking is OK…the big concern is the ability for people to become addicted to nicotine and also to be smoking in an environment where smoking is not permitted.”

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the author

Always in motion. April Siese writes about music, takes photos at shows, and even helps put them on behind the scenes as a stagehand. She's written everything from hard news to beauty features, as well as fiction and poetry. She most definitely likes pie.

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  • VocalEK

    Actually, e-cigarettes are NOT just like regular cigarettes. They (can) contain nicotine, a chemical extracted from tobacco, which is the basis for the FDA to regulate them under the Tobacco Act rather than as a drug. That is where the similarities end.

    Regular cigarettes are set on fire and burned. They produce smoke. Smoke contains many harmful components, including tar, carbon monoxide, particulates, and thousands of chemicals that are actually created by the process of burning the tobacco. These (not the nicotine) are what causes the lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancers associated with smoking.

    E-cigarette mist is created by vaporizing the same chemical found in theatrical fog machines, propylene glycol (PG). PG is found in many household products and is used as an air sanitizer. The liquid in an e-cigarette cartridge also contains water, flavoring, and optionally, a small amount of nicotine. Each puff of vapor contains only 10% of the nicotine found in a puff of real smoke. Most of the nicotine and the PG are absorbed by the user, so the exhaled mist is pretty much harmless water vapor.

  • kthnxbye

    This is absolutely absurd and pigheaded. We should be banning cigarettes from all public spaces and REPLACING them with e-cigarettes. The smoker can have the nicotine delivery and the fidget-object, the rest of us don’t have to smell a thing. People are going to smoke regardless. I am bitterly disappointed that instead of welcoming e-cigs with open arms, we want to push people back into smoking regular cigarettes instead.

  • Traver

    Who are these misguided health officials? Don’t they know that the smokers who switch to Electronic cigarettes are already addicted to nicotine? Besides as public health officials they already know nicotine doesn’t cause cancer and is no worse than caffeine. Are they going to ban coffee too?

    Aragon seems to be concerned about vapors smoking in a place where smoking is not permitted. This makes no sense. There is no smoke so how can they be smoking and why is he concerned about where we use our E cigs. There is no smoke, no second hand smoke and no lingering odors. There should be a bit more justification for banning the most effective way of quitting tobacco than we don’t like the way it looks.

  • kristinnm

    Why does it matter if it “looks like a cigarette” and delivers nicotine? The law is an indoor use ban against SMOKING, not a ban of use of “things that look like cigarettes but don’t create smoke” or “things that contain nicotine.” A pipe looks nothing like a cigarette, yet it’s use is banned because it is SMOKING. FDA-approved patches, gums and inhalers conatin nicotine, too – will using those be banned, as well?? A nicotine inhaler is even long, white and the user inhales nicotine. What? No ban there? Hmmm….

    E-cigarette cartridges are even available without nicotine – so where is the justification of banning the use of those? Just because it “looks like smoking?” Most people I know use e-cigarettes that look nothing like a cigarette – they look like black or silver mini flashlights. So, where is the justification to ban the use of a black/silver, flashlight-looking device with a blue light switch and no nicotine?? It doesn’t look like a cigarette, has no nicotine and doesn’t act like a cigarette – no smoke. Justify THAT.

    Ignorant, illogical people shouldn’t be allowed to make laws.

  • Well ecigs are not like normal cigarettes, they don’t have tobacco in them, they are not as harmful as standard ones are, i don’t think imposing ban on these devices is the right thing.

  • They will definitely ban electronic cigarettes, the tobacco companies pay high taxes how can they allow an alternative to take their place.

  • I am totally agree that e cigarette and normal cigarette both are same but e cigarette is much more safe for smoking. So according to me it should not be banned like traditional cigarette.