An electronic cigarette is no different than a regular cigarette, according to the Santa Maria City Council, which decided this week to extend its public-smoking ban to the relatively new devices.
The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to add e-cigarettes — battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives in aerosol form — to the definition of smoking in the city’s municipal code, which means no smoking the “vapes” inside public buildings or within 20 feet of them.
The change was included in an annual list of code updates that also amended speed limits on several city streets, according to city spokesman Mark van de Kamp.
Santa Maria is just the second city in Santa Barbara County to extend its public-smoking ban to e-cigarettes. Buellton has passed a similar provision.
The city joins a growing list of municipalities nationwide that have singled out e-cigarettes, including New York and Los Angeles, which just approved a ban earlier this week.
Santa Maria City Librarian Mary Housel requested the code revision after a patron came into the library while smoking an e-cigarette two months ago.
“The staff was a little unsure how to respond to it,” Housel told Noozhawk. “They are kind of a more recent phenomenon. My personal feeling was a cigarette is a cigarette whether it’s a cigarette or an e-cigarette.
"It’s helpful to have a clear decision so we can refer to it as needed.”
Several people spoke out about the move during public comment, focusing on the health benefits as opposed to conventional cigarette smoking, but the council ignored their pleas.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is revising its policies related to tobacco, including e-cigarettes, said spokeswoman Susan Klein-Rothschild.
She said to expect some ordinance revisions later this spring.