By Miriam Raftery
July 9, 2014 (La Mesa) - La Mesa’s City Council voted to snuff out electronic cigarettes – prompting one Councilmember to light up in protest.
By a 4-1 vote, the council majority voted to restrict electronic cigarettes in the same manner that cigarettes are already regulated. The lone no vote came from Councilwoman Kristine Alessio, who lit up an e-cigarette and a standard cigarette to compare the vapor and smoke levels that wafted across the Council Chamber.
In so doing, the Councilwoman committed a misdemeanor, since smoking cigarettes indoors in a public place is already illegal in La Mesa.
The plume sent Councilman Ernie Ewin retreating off the council dais, complaining that Alessio’s smoke aggravated his allergies.
La Mesa’s political leaders won’t have anymore smoke-filled rooms in the future, however, such puffing e-cigarettes in public places will be prohibited. Council instructed staff to draw up the ordinance for final approval at the next Council meeting.
The majority of speakers voiced support for banning e-cigarette use in public areas. La Mesa joins El Cajon, San Diego and other cities in regulating use of the devices. Reasons cited include public health and growing use of e-cigarettes by children, including some sold with candy flavors and cartoon characters that appear to target minors.
Councilwoman Ruth Sterling voiced concerns initially about government regulation of private activities, but ultimately voted with her colleagues, Mayor Art Madrid, Councilman Ewin and Councilman Mark Arapostathis in favor of an ordinance. Arapostathis indicated some local restuarants have voiced support for keeping e-cigarettes from annoying their non-smoking patrons.
Alessio, however, sided with preserving freedoms for smokers over protecting children and others from potential health risks of e-cigarettes, which can contain nicotine and other toxins.
In addition to this hot topic, the Council also voted on issues involving expenditure of funds. Councilmembers Ewin and Alessio pushed through a measure to require Councilmembers to get advance permission for expenditures as small as a postage stamp, while conversely supporting a measure to spend public funds to hire a public relations professional for the city.