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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on March 26, 2019, updated its existing ban on smoking in public areas, such as beaches and parks to include vaping — cannabis included.

The rules in the updated Los Angeles County Smoke-Free Ordinance expanded the definition of smoking. No longer is the ordinance concerned only with the smoke from a pipe, cigar or cigarette “or other like substances.” Now the ordinance broadens smoking to cover “inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted, heated or ignited cigar, cigarette, cigarillo, pipe, hookah, electronic smoking device, or plant products, or using any other method or device that delivers nicotine, cannabis, or other like substances to a person.”

I think if you're going to have such restrictive policies, you need to have an alternative in mind. Click To Tweet

Under this broader definition, smoking is now banned in county-owned and newly leased facilities and vehicles, and it is further banned at other areas under the county's jurisdiction, including:

  • Public beaches and their parking areas in unincorporated Los Angeles County
  • Public elevators
  • Aboard buses and at bus stops
  • Museums and libraries
  • Hospitals
  • Parks and their parking lots
  • Within 40 feet of food trucks, or within 25 feet of outdoor bars and restaurants
  • Any county parking facility
  • Any driving range and eating area, including outdoor eating areas of any county-owned golf course.

Proponents of this change argue that Los Angeles County residents and visitors want to be able to breathe fresh air without worrying about secondhand smoke or odors that they don't appreciate.

“Rules regarding cigarettes and cigarette-like products have not been significantly updated in a very long time,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who led the effort to update the county codes, said in a statement. “No doubt future entrepreneurs will invent new ways to smoke, and, rather than specifically update our ordinances each time, we have written this ordinance so that the rules protecting public health should not need updating again.”

Barbara Ferrer, director of L.A. County's Department of Public Health, said in a statement that secondhand smoke is responsible for thousands of deaths per year and that these rule changes will “help save lives.”

Cannabis Advocates Call for Alternatives

It remains unclear if there are potential negative health effects related to secondhand smoke from vaping cannabis, as the authors of an article argued in the November 2015 issue of the journal Addiction.

“I'm not surprised by [this ban]. I think, ultimately, not only in California but across the country, over this last decade we've become much more restrictive of where we allow the consumption of any smokable product,” said Josh Drayton, the director of communications and outreach at the California Cannabis Industry Association. “What concerns me specifically in L.A. County is they continue to move forward with restrictive policies when they have made no regulations for safe consumption in unincorporated Los Angeles.”

Drayton said L.A. County lawmakers have restricted where cannabis can be used but haven't made significant efforts to create spaces where citizens are allowed to consume cannabis, such as allowing consumption lounges. The incorporated city of West Hollywood has allowed for 16 consumption lounges, with one, Lowell Farms: A Cannabis Cafe, set to open by summer 2019.

Banning public vaping presents other problems, particularly for renters whose landlords do not allow cannabis to be smoked or vaped in their properties.

Drayton noted that the cannabis compounds people need for medical reasons are absorbed more quickly by vaping cannabis than by methods that don't require inhalation.

“I think if you're going to have such restrictive policies, you need to have an alternative in mind,” Drayton said. “Where are they going to allow consumers to consume cannabis?”

Drayton also questioned how the rule changes will be communicated to consumers. He said that people unaware of the rule change might unfairly suffer consequences, such as being fined, if they follow the current status quo.  

“Educational campaigns on any changes like this must be delivered to constituents in these areas, and I have yet to see that,” Drayton said.

Educational campaigns on any changes (to smoking laws) must be delivered to constituents in these areas, and I have yet to see that. Click To Tweet

Drayton said consumers and patients already face many challenges when it comes to cannabis consumption, and L.A. County lawmakers need to offer solutions to these problems instead of creating more restrictions.