California was the state that, in 1998, pioneered a public smoking ban that caught on not only in other states across the US, but also around the world. Today, Californian policy makers have weighed in on what is rapidly becoming the next great controversy in the tobacco industry: electronic cigarettes.
A committee on the Los Angeles City Council today announced that they are preparing groundwork for legislation banning the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in public places, such as farmers markets, parks, recreational areas, beaches, bars, nightclubs and outdoor dining areas.
Though, in true Hollywood style, film production sets are exempt from the ban, as are dedicated "vaping lounges" - "vaping" being the colloquial term for smoking the vaporized nicotine and other chemicals provided by e-cigarettes.
Los Angeles is not the first major city to consider this course of action.
In January, the Chicago City Council approved a ban on e-cigarettes in indoor public areas, such as offices. A month before that, New York approved an amendment to the city's public smoking ban to include e-cigarettes.
But the fact that LA lawmakers are now taking this measure seriously will no doubt add further fuel to an already-heated debate on the health risks posed by e-cigarettes.
Nicotine but no tar
The main advantage offered by e-cigarettes is that they do not contain tar. However, they do contain nicotine.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered, portable devices that work by heating a liquid containing nicotine and a substance called propylene glycol into a vapor that is inhaled by the smoker.
The main advantage offered by e-cigarettes is that they do not contain tar - the fatal ingredient in conventional cigarettes that is at the root of most health problems associated with smoking. As such, e-cigarettes offer a healthier alternative to the kind of cigarettes that public health campaigns have spent decades targeting.
However, e-cigarettes do contain nicotine - the stimulant in tobacco that creates powerful cravings in smokers.
A 2012 study, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that e-cigarettes deliver nicotine faster than other cigarette substitutes, such as gum or lozenges. But could e-cigarettes prove to be equally as addictive as conventional cigarettes?
There is not enough data to be sure right now, but that e-cigarettes profess to be a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes, while still promoting the addictive qualities of tobacco, is one of the main dilemmas that has split a previously united front from tobacco researchers and public health groups.