Ordinance would ban electronic cigarettes on BART

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Michelle Kim/Staff

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BART passengers may no longer be able to use electronic cigarettes on trains, after the transit system’s board of directors voted Thursday to adopt an ordinance that would ban the use of such devices in the BART system.

The act of smoking an e-cigarette, known colloquially as vaping, was not previously regulated on BART. In addition, no state or federal guidelines currently exist to control smoking e-cigarettes aboard trains, according to a BART press release.

“A number of complaints have reached the board of directors about people using electronic cigarettes and vaping devices on BART property,” said board member Robert Raburn in the release. “Other transit providers have enacted prohibitions that we now propose to enact.”

E-cigarettes, also called vapes, do not burn tobacco but instead heat liquid nicotine and flavoring to form inhalable vapor. Unlike their traditional counterparts, e-cigarettes do not release as much secondhand smoke, according to Nikolas Ignacio, an employee at Skyline Vape, an e-cigarette retailer on San Pablo Avenue.

“It’s a lot healthier,” Ignacio said. “I actually use it to help myself quit smoking cigarettes. I feel better going about my day.”

Various health advocacy groups, such as the American Lung Association, were present at the Thursday meeting and said they supported the ordinance because they see e-cigarettes as just as harmful as their traditional counterparts.

Serena Chen, policy director for the American Lung Association in California, received several complaint emails from San Francisco residents regarding people using e-cigarette devices aboard trains. She then contacted Raburn, who brought the concerns before the board and drafted the ordinance.

“All 400,000 (weekday) BART riders can now have an expectation now that they won’t be exposed,” Chen said.

The California Health and Safety Code prohibits smoking on public transport systems. Signs must also be posted to indicate nonsmoking areas on platforms and ticketing areas inside stations. No California law explicitly refers to smoking e-cigarettes on public transport, however, leaving it up to individual transit systems to come up with their own policy.

Last April, the city and county of San Francisco voted to pass a new health code article, which treats e-cigarettes as traditional cigarettes, banning them from places where traditional cigarettes are prohibited. Additionally, sellers are required to have a tobacco-sales permit, and pharmacies are barred from selling e-cigarettes.

“Nearly every city that BART stops in has adopted (an e-cigarette) law,” Chen said. “It became ironic that people are prohibited (from smoking e-cigarettes) in cities that BART goes through but could use them once on BART.”

Ignacio said banning e-cigarettes is a fair choice, adding that “people shouldn’t be smoking on BART trains and platforms anyways.”

The board will still need to formally adopt the ordinance during a Feb. 12 meeting before it can take effect, according to the release. Signs will be placed on platforms, trains and stations to notify riders about the new policy.

Adrienne Shih is the lead city reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.

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  • Bob Bell

    “Making smoking illegal in places where others can’t escape the second hand smoke” is hard to disagree with, and I do agree with it up to a point. Some take it to such an extreme though that it would effectively ban smoking altogether. That would be a good thing in many ways, but it’s not worth sacrificing individual freedom for. Because what’s next? Think of all the damage alcohol does, and that impact is not limited to just the drinker (family, victims of impaired drivers, etc.). But we tried banning alcohol once, and the only good thing that came out of that was The Untouchables TV series. Once upon a time, this thread was about vaping, which is not smoking. In general, people want to ban things they don’t personally do/like but leave alone things they do do/like. Sorry about your COPD.

    • YeahRight

      I don’t think that we should attempt a general smoking ban any more than a ban on alcohol or certain drugs like Marihuana, either. People are people and they will have their addictions ( wouldn’t like a bacon or ice cream ban, either!). As long as it’s a choice and nobody gets forced to endure side effects like second hand smoke it’s a good compromise between health and safety and liberty. Beyond that the government can extend advice and a helping hand for those who want to kick their habit. As for vaping, I don’t think the chemical analysis of the residue is sufficiently different from smoking to declare it safe for bystanders. Admittedly, from my experience the aerosol is somewhat less intrusive than smoke, which is really nano-particles that can be around for a very long time. I would still prefer not to be exposed, if it can be prevented.

    • YeahRight

      I don’t think that we should attempt a general smoking ban any more than a ban on alcohol or certain drugs like Marihuana, either. People are people and they will have their addictions ( wouldn’t like a bacon or ice cream ban, either!). As long as it’s a choice and nobody gets forced to endure side effects like second hand smoke it’s a good compromise between health and safety and liberty. Beyond that the government can extend advice and a helping hand for those who want to kick their habit. As for vaping, I don’t think the chemical analysis of the residue is sufficiently different from smoking to declare it safe for bystanders. Admittedly, from my experience the aerosol is somewhat less intrusive than smoke, which is really nano-particles that can be around for a very long time. I would still prefer not to be exposed, if it can be prevented.

  • YeahRight

    As a non-smoker I am bothered by the smell. That alone should be enough to not allow them in public.

  • Firingy John

    I don’t know, actually can e-cigarettes help smokers quit? ButI share my experience how do I quit smoking. I had been smoking weed everyday for two years. First it was only at nights but for the last 10 or 12 months it has been breakfast, lunch, before and after dinner. If I woke up in the middle of night – I would smoke more weed. I could not kick the habit. I spend weekly $250 for smoking. But I felt like I needed weed all the time. It was was ruining my life and I just couldn’t stop on my own. Until I found the program Quit smoking Magic.

  • oh come on, this is a bit of nanny state too far. To go this far is too paternalistic.

    • YeahRight

      How about someone shooting heroin between their toes on the seat right next to your daughter? Are you still cool with that? From a medical perspective smoking is worse than clean heroin.

      • Bob Bell

        Comparing an illegal activity (heroin) with a legal, if unpleasant one, is a classic false comparison. From your previous response, I get the impression that your attitude is, “Anything I don’t like should be banned (at least in public).” I’m sure you think earth would be paradise if only everyone were just like you. I am bothered by people posting under aliases. That alone should be enough to ban the practice.

        • YeahRight

          Smoking in public is illegal. The only difference is the stroke of the pen of the lawmaker. In this case the smoking of e-cigarettes in public is simply not illegal, yet. I am not giving them much time, though.

          • Bob Bell

            Smoking on BART is illegal (smoking in public is still legal, as long as you can smoke on the street, but I get your point). Reading a newspaper on BART is legal, and the only difference there is also “the stroke of the pen of the lawmaker”. Vaping is legal (I agree not for long, especially the way Big Tobacco is pouring in the money to fight it). Smokeless tobacco is legal I’m pretty sure. Personally I don’t like any of the 3 but I don’t think people’s freedoms should be limited by my personal preferences. Numbers 2 and 3 do not have a demonstrated second hand health effect, so my inclination is on the side of freedom.

          • Bob Bell

            Smoking on BART is illegal (smoking in public is still legal, as long as you can smoke on the street, but I get your point). Reading a newspaper on BART is legal, and the only difference there is also “the stroke of the pen of the lawmaker”. Vaping is legal (I agree not for long, especially the way Big Tobacco is pouring in the money to fight it). Smokeless tobacco is legal I’m pretty sure. Personally I don’t like any of the 3 but I don’t think people’s freedoms should be limited by my personal preferences. Numbers 2 and 3 do not have a demonstrated second hand health effect, so my inclination is on the side of freedom.

        • YeahRight

          Smoking in public is illegal. The only difference is the stroke of the pen of the lawmaker. In this case the smoking of e-cigarettes in public is simply not illegal, yet. I am not giving them much time, though.

      • Bob Bell

        Comparing an illegal activity (heroin) with a legal, if unpleasant one, is a classic false comparison. From your previous response, I get the impression that your attitude is, “Anything I don’t like should be banned (at least in public).” I’m sure you think earth would be paradise if only everyone were just like you. I am bothered by people posting under aliases. That alone should be enough to ban the practice.