LOS ANGELES - E-cigarette users in the city of Los Angeles will be relegated to the ranks of tobacco smokers come midnight, when a ban on e-cigarette use at bars, restaurants and other public areas is set to take effect.
"Vapers,'' as e-cigarette users call themselves, on Saturday will no longer be able to legally puff on their steam-emitting, battery-powered devices at indoor workplaces, such as bars, nightclubs and restaurants starting Saturday. They will also need to put away their e-cigarettes in public areas like farmers' markets, parks, recreational facilities, beaches and outdoor dining areas.
The ban goes into effect more than a month after the Los Angeles City Council, citing potentially harmful chemicals emitted via e-cigarette vapors, voted to restrict e-cigarette use in the same areas where tobacco smoking is barred.
The ban was approved over the vocal objections of e-cigarette users who credit the devices -- which allow them to inhale nicotine through water vapors -- with helping them quit tobacco smoking.
The ban does include some exceptions. Just as with cigar lounges and hookah bars, the council voted to allow indoor workplace vaping to continue at lounges and retail stores dedicated to e-cigarettes. Also exempted from the ban is vaping done for "theatrical purposes,'' such as on a theater stage by actors to simulate tobacco smoking.
Elaine Ruggieri, co-owner of the Natural Vapes e-cigarette store in West Los Angeles, said she and her colleagues "will not be acknowledging the start of the new law, saying they are focusing on efforts to legally challenge and reverse the ban.
The vaping prohibition "punishes adults'' who took the "amazing step'' to quit smoking, she said. Now, "when they want to get nicotine or vape, they will have to stand with the smokers,'' even though their intent was to get away from the damaging effects of tobacco smoke.
Darrin Gold, who started the L.A. Vapers Club three years ago after he picked up e-cigarette smoking, was among those who protested the law in March. He said the ban could cause smokers to "skip electronic cigarettes and just keep smoking.''
Gold, whose group meets monthly also said e-cigarette users will likely adjust to the ban and seek out venues outside of the city to continue vaping.
City Councilman Joe Buscaino expressed sympathy Thursday for e-cigarette users who oppose the ban, saying he and his colleagues were not presented with "conclusive evidence that second-hand vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful.'' He said he tried to convince his peers to continue allowing e-cigarette use in bars, but that failed on an 8-6 vote.
"Now, it's up to the FDA to let us know what ... consequences, if any, derive from e-cigarettes,'' he said in an email.