By Jondi Gumz, Santa Cruz Sentinel
CAPITOLA>> Electronic cigarettes could be prohibited in public places and restaurants just like conventional tobacco cigarettes if the Capitola City Council amends its regulations Thursday.
Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices shaped like a cigarette that contain a nicotine-based liquid that is vaporized and inhaled.
In Capitola, these products are sold at Beyond Vape, a store that is part of a national chain that in its news blog criticized the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s proposed regulations of their products last year. Those regulations are not yet finalized.
E-Smokey Treats, owned by Santa Cruz resident Phil Horne, sold e-cigarettes in the Capitola Mercantile, but the store closed after he died late in 2013.
Police chief Rudy Escalante is proposing the restrictions based on health risks and concern that use of electronic cigarettes could make it difficult to enforce the existing smoking ban.
Use of e-cigarettes is gaining in popularity and nicotine is highly addictive, he pointed out, noting that lack of federal regulations.
Nearly 50 cities in California, including Santa Cruz, have revised their smoke-free policies to address e-cigarette use, according to Escalante .
Sales of e-cigarettes in the United States were estimated at $1.5 billion last year, and projected to grow 24 percent per year through 2018, according to Research and Markets, a market research firm.
More high school students are trying e-cigarettes, with the percentage nationwide growing from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012.
E-cigarette Forum, an online community that supports the industry, contends the products improve the health of those smoke conventional cigarettes, but studies are mixed on whether electronic cigarettes can help people quit smoking.
The FDA contends e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know of potential risks, how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are inhaled during use, or whether there are benefits.
An FDA lab test of cartridges from two leading brands in 2014 found nitrosamines, which are human carcinogens, in half of the samples.
In other action Thursday, the Capitola City council will honor City Attorney John Barisone, who is retiring after 14 years, and consider an agreement with the California Home Energy Retrofit Opportunity program, which puts a tax lien to pay for energy efficiency improvements ahead of the lender that holds the mortgage. The countywide homeless strategic plan also is on the agenda.