Electronic cigarettes would be subject to the same prohibitions as regular cigarettes under a bill passed Friday by the Senate.
Perhaps you've had this experience: you're sitting in a bar and you see what appears to be someone smoking a cigarette, blatantly violating an indoor smoking ban; you get a little closer and realize that the person is in fact drawing on an e-cigarette, exhaling vapor that's distinct from the acrid smoke produced by conventional cigarettes.
That would no longer be possible under Senate Bill 648 by Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, that would ban e-cigarettes inside public buildings, near a playground, inside restaurants and on an airplane. It would also restrict the places where e-cigarette companies could advertise.
Corbett said she had authored the legislation in pursuit of "consistent regulation" that holds the burgeoning e-cigarette industry to the same standards as tobacco-based products, and added that studies of e-cigarette smoke had found harmful particles of metal components.
"This bill does not ban the use of e-cigarettes," Corbett said, "it just treats them the same as other cigarettes."
The measure passed on a 21-10 vote. One of the dissenting lawmakers, Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, argued that e-cigarettes are an effective way to help people quit regular cigarettes, something he asked senators to consider given the fact that "we spend tens of millions, billions of dollars trying to get people off cigarettes."
"While it may not be perfect, it's a step in the right direction," Anderson said of substituting the futuristic-looking smokes for conventional cigarettes, adding that e-cigarettes have given "a new lease on life" to constituents who have struggled to kick the habit.
PHOTO CREDIT: A pack of "blu" brand electronic cigarettes. Friday, Aug. 27, 2010 by Gerry Broome/The Associated Press.