The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban the use of electronic cigarettes, popularly known as "vaping," from restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other public spaces within the nation's second-largest city.
If signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the measure would take effect in 30 days, said Tony Arranaga, spokesman for Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, one of the sponsors of the bill. A press deputy for Garcetti, who was traveling in Mexico on Tuesday, declined to say if he would sign the ban into law.
If he does, Los Angeles would join a growing list of cities, including New York and Chicago, that restrict the use of e-cigarettes, battery-powered cartridges filled with nicotine liquid that create an inhalable vapor when heated.
At stake is the future of an industry that some analysts believe will eventually overtake the $80 billion-a-year tobacco business.
Advocates of e-cigarettes say they are less dangerous than tobacco products and can help smokers quit. But public health experts fear they may act as a gateway to smoking for the uninitiated.
Critics also point to potential harm posed to individuals who may inhale second-hand vapor from e-cigarettes, saying too little is known about the effects of the chemicals contained in the cartridges.
Under the measure passed by the City Council, e-cigarette use would be prohibited from bars, nightclubs, restaurants and outdoor areas where tobacco smoking is generally restricted, such as parks, beaches, farmers markets, recreational areas and outdoor dining spaces.
The bill provides exemptions to allow e-cigarettes in vaping lounges and stores, similar to exceptions made for cigar and hookah lounges under traditional anti-smoking restrictions. E-cigarettes would also be permitted for theatrical purposes.
NJOY, the largest independent maker of electronic cigarettes, said in a statement that the council made its decision "in the absence of credible science." But the company called the final measure more reasonable than an original proposal that did not make exceptions for lounges or filming.
"NJOY remains concerned, however, that banning e-cigarette use in public places could deter current tobacco smokers from using the products and thus disserves public health," the company said.