SAN JOSE -- Santa Clara County will consider bolstering a ban on nicotine vaporizers on Tuesday, essentially putting the contraptions commonly known as "e-cigarettes" or "vapes" under the same restrictions as traditional tobacco for retailers and those who puff in public.
The second round of rules comes after a March decision to prohibit use of vapes on county property. The expanded ordinance would include all enclosed public spaces in unincorporated areas, such as restaurants, bars, motels and workplaces. It would also prohibit e-cigarette use within 30 feet of an entrance to anyplace where smoking is banned.
"A lot of it is incorporating e-cigarettes into policy that already exists for tobacco," said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who is spearheading the effort.
He said the one area it differs is in people's homes. While smoking tobacco is prohibited for those living in multiunit residential buildings, the e-cigarettes would be barred from common areas but not individual residences.
It would also require retailers selling e-cigarettes to have a tobacco retailer permit, which costs $425 annually.
Yeager said that county staff contacted retailers that would be affected and found that "generally everyone was OK with it."
Unlike traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes use a battery to heat and vaporize a nicotine solution. Yeager said that while comprehensive health studies have not been completed, it is known that some of the byproducts can be toxic and the ordinance seeks to take an early stance even if it means possibly "erring on the side of safety."
He said that without state regulations other than it being illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors, it falls upon local municipalities to draft ordinances to regulate the increasingly popular practice. If the proposal passes, Santa Clara County will have a very strict model to follow, he said.
"This is much more comprehensive than what is in other jurisdictions," he said, "and our hope is that other cities will consider adopting something similar."
And that's exactly what Rebecca Beardslee fears.
The 36-year-old Cupertino resident, who is involved with the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, smoked for half her life before finally kicking the habit with the aid of e-cigarettes.
"I tried everything else -- the patch, cold turkey, cutting down to a couple a week -- nothing else worked," she said.
Beardslee said regulators are trying to needlessly frighten the populace without facts in hand.
"What they're saying, that it's really harmful and getting children to start smoking, they're being really ridiculous," she said. "They're trying to get people scared. It's better for people than smoking. The good aspects are being swept under the carpet."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.
What: Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors discussion of additional e-cigarette regulations
When: 9 a.m. Tuesday
Where: Board of Supervisors Chamber, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose.