- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces and public areas, placing “vaping” into the same category as tobacco smoking.

The council voted 14-0 to restrict e-cigarette smoking where tobacco use is restricted, including restaurants, parks, bars, nightclubs, beaches and workplaces.

E-cigarette lounges are exempted.

The restrictions would take effect after Mayor Eric Garcetti signs it.

Several other cities around the country already have restricted e-cigarettes, the battery-powered devices that heat up liquid nicotine so the vapor can be inhaled. Some states also are considering regulations, and a U.S. Senate bill introduced last month would curb electronic cigarette marketing while the fast-growing industry awaits regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

Proponents say they lack the toxic tars of tobacco cigarettes and could help people kick the smoking habit.

Councilman Joe Buscaino said a relative who was a longtime smoker turned to e-cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes “are not tobacco, and I don’t think they should be regulated exactly the same way,” Buscaino said.

However, his amendment to exempt bars and nightclubs - typically adults-only venues - from the restrictions fell short of passage.

Critics note the lack of research on e-cigarette safety and say it could be a gateway into smoking for young people.

Council President Herb Wesson said he began smoking cigarettes when he was a teenager.

“When you’re 15, you want to be cool,” he said. “And I will not support anything - anything - that might attract one new smoker.”

“We don’t want to risk e-cigarettes undermining a half-century of successful tobacco control,” Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told the council.

E-cigarettes are a $1.5 billion industry “that has caught the attention of big tobacco, which historically has had scant regard for public health,” Fielding said.

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