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Cities Struggle with Spread of E-Cigarette Smoke Shops

The $1 billion electronic cigarette industry has boomed in the last year; Southern California cities, shell-shocked from the spread of marijuana dispensaries, are struggling to cope with the storefront businesses.
September 4, 2013, 1pm PDT | Alek Miller
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"With fresh memories of how rapidly marijuana dispensaries multiplied and generated controversy, many cities want to slow the spread of electronic cigarette stores until they can figure out the ramifications," explain Adolfo Flores and Marisa Gerber.  

Because electronic cigarettes don't use traditional tobacco, but a water vapor with a range of nicotine (sometimes zero nicotine), public health officials don't have an abundance of evidence to issue an edict against them.  

"For Jim Basham, Seal Beach's director of community development, the distinguishing line between pot dispensaries and vaping outlets is a bit blurry. He's seen e-cigarette stores evolve into hemp shops — and draw with them a ragtag crowd," a suggestion shrugged off by the owner of a shop in Temple City: "'They're definitely not going to be hanging outside the vapor store begging for change to get their next e-cigarette,' he said of the clientele at OG Smoke Shop. 'I think the idea that putting one of these in causes crime … is the most ludicrous part of the debate.'"

Now, many cities are using zoning restrictions and issuing moratoriums to keep the smoke shops away from schools and parks as a way to exercise caution while state and federal regulations catch up with the trend.

"With no clear statewide or federal regulations on where e-cigarettes can be used, some businesses have implemented their own policies. Starbucks, for example, does not allow their use inside its coffee shops."

"Proposed legislation in California, which cleared the Senate in May, would extend existing restrictions on smoking tobacco products to e-cigarettes. That bill was recently put on hold until next year."

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Published on Saturday, August 31, 2013 in The Los Angeles Times
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