County Moves to Regulate E-Cigarettes, Vapes

Until now, electronic cigarette users have enjoyed unfettered freedom to vape when and where they please. But Santa Clara County supervisors want to catch up with the trend and pull it under the purview of existing anti-smoking laws.

“Unfortunately, the rapidly increasing use of e-cigarettes threatens to undo much of the social norm change around tobacco use that has largely resulted from policies like the ones implemented by the county,” states a memo, introduced by Supervisor Ken Yeager, that's going before the Board of Supervisors next week.

E-cig and vape smokers could undermine those policies, county officials say, because smoking in public effectively advertises those products in ways that have been restricted for cigarettes and other tobacco products for generations.

Children and teens are especially vulnerable to the re-normalization of smoking through e-cigs and their array of candy and fruit flavors that regular old cigarette companies have been banned from peddling since 2009, the county says.

“Youth are now witnessing smoking behaviors in public spaces that have been smoke-free for most, if not all, of their life,” the report reads. “Youth are also being exposed to e-cigarette advertising on television, something that has been prohibited for decades for traditional tobacco products.”

In the absence of federal regulation, several communities have passed ordinances limiting use and sale of e-cigs and vapes. San Francisco supervisors are considering an ordinance and Los Angeles recently passed restrictions that treat vapes like traditional cigarettes. More than 100 cities and counties in the nation—including 40 in California alone—have passed similar regulations.

E-cigs have been touted as a safer, healthier alternative to smoking and come with infusions of tobacco, cannabis or just the flavor. The “smoke” is simply a water vapor that evaporates in seconds. But health officials worry that the ritual of smoking, even if it’s a tobacco- and cannabis-free vapor can lead to hard-to-break habits.

The county will explore the option of updating the official definition of smoking to include e-cigs. It will then come back with a report about how to turn that into an ordinance.

More from the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agenda for March 25, 2014:

  • County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody recently visited the region’s largest homeless encampment—“The Jungle” by Happy Hollow Zoo—to get a better sense of the health challenges its residents face. She found that little is known about the prevalence of HIV in the community. What is known is that documented cases aren’t being treated properly. This is problematic, she says, because untreated HIV-sufferers experience serious health problems and risk infecting others, whether through unprotected sex or intravenous drug use. Because of these uncertainties, Supervisor Yeager asked Cody to come up with a report for the Health and Hospital Committee about the prevalence of HIV within the county’s homeless camps and what public health officials can do to intervene. Homelessness and HIV are intricately related, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. For one, the cost of care for people living with HIV or AIDS often takes a huge toll on people, putting them at enormous risk of losing their home. Plus, a homeless person’s chance of contracting the disease is disproportionately high, largely because of substance abuse and unsafe sex.
  • Unincorporated parts of the region are on track to meet affordable housing goals, thanks in part to the Stanford Affordable Housing Fund. The Stanford fund created in 2000 demands that the university provides one unit of affordable housing or an in-lieu fee for every 11,000 square feet of new campus development.
  • Supervisors will take a moment to honor San Jose native Alain Dang, a nationally known LGBT activist and scholar who died at the age of 37, six hours after checking into a hospital for flu-like symptoms.

WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Lynn Regadanz, [email protected]

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. At age 62, I have been a smoker since 6th grade. It was a part of our culture. Since my aunt’s passing in 2003, due to lung cancer caused by her smoking, I tried hard to quit. Nicotine gum helped me cut down but any kind of stress and I was back to compulsive smoking. I took the anti-smoking drug ZYBAN for two days. It made me feel very strange. Three and one half years ago, I used my first e-cig and I have been tobacco free ever since. My health has improved drastically. No coughing, The shortness of breath when climbing stairs is 90% gone. I still use the ecig and have no desire to use tobacco. I am considering going into the ecig business and I have started reading the ecig news. Banning, crackdowns, fears ,concerns, questions, gateway, fears, harming children is all that I read..
    Hysteria over a “personal nicotine vaporizer”??? A small lithium battery,( lithium batteries power cellphones, laptop computers, pacemakers equipment on jet airliners etc.,) heats an element that turns nicotine liquid ( consisting of nicotine the same as in the nicotine gum paid for by Medicare and Medicaid, and food grade flavorings, in a base of propylene glycol which is rated GRAS, generally regarded as safe) in the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, section 184-1666, and is found in many food products, asthma inhalers, the anti-smoking drug ZYBAN, toothpaste etc,) into vapor like your tea kettle.
    I was awakened by the Bloomberg, 2/19/2014, article, “ GLAXO Memo Shows Drug Industry Lobbying on E-Cigarettes”. Glaxo-Smith Kline is the 4th largest Pharma company and it sells nicotine gum, lozenges, patches inhalers and the anti-smoking drug ZYBAN which I learned was actually the mind-altering psychiatric drug Wellbutrin. I then went on to read the Forbes 7/2/2012, article, “Feds Say Dr. Drew Was Paid by GLAXO TO Talk Up Antidepressant” Forbes in included a link to the 72 page Justice Department complaint against GLAXO which involved the illegal, deceptive and fraudulent marketing of antidepressants to children and adolescents. through their Doctors.
    New York Times 7?2/2012, GLAXO Agrees To Pay THREE BILLION Fraud Settlement ( and pleads guilty to criminal charges). after a ten year investigation started by “whistle blowers”.
    The New York Times, 12/14/2013, “The Selling of ADHD,( attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) documents the depths that Pharma will go to sell their drugs to children and adolescents through their Doctors..
    I once considered myself well-informed but until reading this material, I had no idea of the actions of BIG PHARMA, which I consider the “Crime of the Century” I encourage you to read this material.
    It is conceivable that the ecig could make nicotine gum, patches inhalers etc. and the mind altering psychiatric anti-smoking drugs (GLAXO is working on a new one GSK598809) obsolete, or at minimum reduce the sales. Big Pharma and the politicians that do their bidding agree that this cannot be allowed.
    Who is harmed by this? Those who are near hopelessly addicted to cigarettes and the thousands of dangerous chemicals they contain. This propaganda campaign by Big Pharma and the politicians that they control is simply meant to scare people especially the elderly and dissuade them from trying a “personal nicotine vaporizer”
    Take the anti-smoking drugs?? Read the black box warnings. Would you recommend them to your mother?

    • Sorry, but how does restricting these things in the same way as real tobacco hurt you? You can inhale all you want in the exact same places as you would have sucked down tobacco smoke. Because you;re 62 years old, you can also buy these things in exactly the same places as you can buy tobacco too.

      You’re right about propylene glycol, a primary component of the e-cigarette juice, being in a lot of products. Here’s what Dow Chemicals says about propylene glycol:

      Therefore breathing spray mists of these materials should be avoided. In
      general, Dow does not support or recommend the use of Dow’s glycols in
      applications where breathing or human eye contact with the spray mists of
      these materials is likely, such as fogs for theatrical productions or antifreeze
      solutions for emergency eye wash stations.

      I don’t want to have to inhale your second- hand toxic vapors.

      • Propylene glycol is the primary ingredient in FDA-approved asthma inhalers and FDA-approved nicotine inhalers. And frankly, if you don’t want to be around people who are exhaling toxins, you’re going to have to live in a hyperbaric chamber and never venture out in public. It’s already been scientifically established that the levels of toxins present in the exhalations of e-cig users are not only well below the threshold of being harmful to anyone, but they’re effectively indistinguishable from the levels present in ordinary human breath and ambient air. You breathe in toxins and carcinogens every time you take a breath. You’re simply having an irrational, emotional overreaction to e-cig vapor because it happens to produce a visible plume.

        This article explains the use of propylene glycol in medical aerosols.
        DOW manufactures and sells PG and attests for it’s safety in human and animal (except cats) food, medicines, etc.
        DOW manufactured chemical weapons, agent orange, napalm, Sold Dow Corning breast implants etc etc all have done great harm
        DOW posts the fact sheet from the American Chemistry Council that warns against exposure to Theatrical fogs etc that contain PG
        It may irritate your eyes and throat but no permanent damage.
        I estimate that a theatrical fog contains 100’s of times more PG than the water vapor from an ecig.
        I referenced FOUR articles about he crimes of BIG PHARMA.
        None of that bothers you???

        • Have you actually read your own link?

          Down at the bottom of of the page there is a “Labeling” section. My two favorite required warning labels are:

          Avoid inhaling. Avoid spraying into eyes or onto other mucous membranes.

          Do not inhale directly; deliberate inhalation of contents can cause death.

          None of that bother you??? Of course it’s a Chinese domain name, and they’re much stricter about these sorts of things than we are.

          • You should read things more carefully. note,” the warning to avoid inhaling does not apply to preparations meant to be inhaled”

          • Actually as it read it, the “Avoid inhaling” part is not required. The Avoid spraying into eyes or onto other mucous membranes. is still required. What do you have to say about the “Do not inhale directly; deliberate inhalation of contents can cause death” warning? I suppose that doesn’t apply to preparations meant to cause death?

          • Well the ones I use are Vegetable Glycol, so there’s that alternative. And there’s a ton of studies that point out how little of anything is in the exhaled vapor. Nicotine is addictive, but in and of itself it does not cause cancer, it is poisonous in large doses, which is why it comes in child proof caps and is not sold to children, there are more chemicals in the air you are breathing right now, than in the exhaled water vapor. Would you rather Big tobacco be allowed to continue killing people with all the additives in cigarettes? Or would you rather there be an encouraged, healthier, safer way for people to quit burning their lungs with poison?

            I smoked for 28 years, since i was 15, I took my first drag off an e-cig last October and never even thought about going back. It was instant, and WAY better.

            Here’s some benefits you are missing with your blinders on

            1) It’s made it super easy for a lot of people to quit burning tobacco
            2) If you drop your e-cig in bed (or you neighbor does) it’s possible you’ll be cleaning up a little spill of e-juice instead of burning down your house, and your neighbor’s house.
            3) due to the delicious flavors it’s easy to cut back on junk food snacking… why eat a slice of cake when you can vape the exact flavor with no calories?
            4) It make your smoking friends smell like people and not ashtrays
            5) Kissing a Vaper is like kissing a sweet treat, not a cigarette butt.
            6) Your smoking friends will live longer, be more pleasant to be around, won’t have to keep ditching you to go out for a smoke
            7) it’s already saving users thousands of dollars a year
            8) it’s going to save the public millions in health care costs every year
            9) Think of all the cigarette butts that are not ending up in landfills and sewage treatment and killing wildlife
            10) the local start ups and small businesses that are making and providing the equipment and juice are pumping loads of money into your towns’ tax coffers, providing employment and trying to help people live healthier lives.

            Quitting smoking used to be hard, for some people it was the hardest thing they ever tried. I found it to be like torture when I tried to quit before. (I tried cold turkey, and the prescriptions and everything that was available, I could not do it.)

            This was one drag and I was done burning forever. I’ve already stepped the nicotine down too, and I never would have gotten this far without this product, and honestly if I do go all the way to 0 mg (which I don’t know if I will or not , I switched for the money savings and the environmental issues) and I am vaping VG and flavor and no nicotine, and if someone, anyone, says “Boo!” to me about it, I’ll tell them straight up, this same lecture.

            I’ve said it before and I will say it again; I’d rather be stuck in a elevator full of vapers than an office full of perfume and cologne wearers.

  2. I don’t want to call you and the other guy shills for the e-cigarette industry, but you sound like shills. Like how does a regular person know anything about what’s in asthma inhalers, and what’s “scientifically established”?

    When I googled for “asthma inhaler propylene glycol” I got a bunch of domain names like,,,,

    Maybe you can provide a link from a drug manufacturer that actually confirms that asthma inhalers actually contain propylene glycol? And can you provide a reputable link that says that propylene glycol is completely safe for inhalation?

    I took the quotes below from

    In a fire situation, propylene glycol can quickly decompose and release toxic fumes.

    According to the propylene glycol Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), prolonged or repeated exposure to propylene glycol may cause damage to the central nervous system.

    BTW, I use Proair HFA, an albuterol sulfate inhaler. It only mentions albuterol sulfate, HFA-134a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane) and ethanol on the package.

    • Yes, I must be an industry shill if I happen to know a basic fact about something. Now my cover is blown, dammit.

  3. Vaporizers work on the same principle as fog machines. Propylene Glycol has a low flash point, so a small amount of heat will cause it to turn into vapor. It’s the same stuff found in Electric Choo Choo trains.

    Another way to produce vapor is through low pressure flash evaporation. This usually involves using a vacuum pump to reduce the air pressure inside the “smoke juice” container.

    Even though I’m a smoker, I have to be somewhat unbiased here. Other than antecdocal evidence (I’ve used smoke/have machines in the past, and had customers complain of shortness of breath) I think the first order of business would be to ask Stanford to conduct a study on its effects on people. I can confirm, the smoke is irritating to some people, and irritation usually points towards something that isn’t good for you.

    Please though, don’t make a rash decision on these devices without proper research. I’ve known some people that have successfully quit smoking cigarettes. I can tell you that the lack of particulate matter and tar in these devices probably makes them a much safer alternative to tobacco.

    • Robert,

      I found a study on inhaled propylene glycol on the National Institute of Health web site. This was taken from the abstract:

      Short exposure to PG mist from artificial smoke generators may cause acute ocular and upper airway irritation in non-asthmatic subjects. A few may also react with cough and slight airway obstruction.

      I didn’t really know anything about propylene glycol, but from your post and the other stuff I read, it’s clear that the the only reason this stuff is being used is to create smoke. So it’s just a chemical that is vaporized so that e-cigarettes can have a more real cigarette-like look and feel. If that’s the case, then bystanders should not have to put up with the second-hand emissions of a chemical that is purely used to make a product look and feel more like a real cigarette.

      The study included only non-asthmatic subjects. I’m sure the health risk to asthmatic subjects was too great to include them. As an asthmatic I don’t understand how the recreational use of chemicals that put my health at risk can be allowed to continue.

      • Nice study you found, spot on.

        It’s only a study of short term effects. What is needed is a long term effects study. At the end of a day though, a business owner should have the freedom to choose if they want smoking allowed. Let the consumer decide if they want to patronize the businesses that allow smoking/vaping.

        • You’ve already lost the argument about business owners having the freedom to allow smoking. These things are dangerous. It’s simply irresponsible to treat them otherwise.

          • “I can confirm, the smoke is irritating to some people, and irritation usually points towards something that isn’t good for you.”

            Who wrote that?

          • There has been no talk of a ban, only about treating them the same as regular tobacco products.

  4. I feel the motion by Santa clara may be necessary, although I find it kind of humorous. People are over exaggerating. We made weed legal and that’s actually a controlled substance. This would be like banning alcohol use in bars. The vaping community isn’t a bunch of kids running around blowing clouds in peoples faces. I think the rest of the community will back me when I say that we respect others around us. But to ban the use of a device that many of us used to help kick smoking actual cigarettes would be somewhat insane. Second hand smoke is what really is damaging to people, but vapor smoke is based off of ingredients we find in our food sources. Don’t believe me research it for yourselves. Pg( Propylene glycol) and vg (glycerol). You consume these items on a daily whether you know it or not. These two items alone are actually harmless to the human body…inhaled or ingested. We are not advocates of smoking, we are pushing for a healthier alternative to smoking. I personally enjoy vaping over smoking. I use no nicotine liquids and i purchase only organic liquids…I don’t see the big deal guys. I used to smoke cigarettes, I’d walk everywhere smoking. I never.lit up near.children though. It may come down to just how lost humanity is. The lack of respect for others may be the larger issue here.

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