Are there any restrictions on how e-cigarettes are used or sold?

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices that provide inhaled doses of nicotine through a vaporized solution contained in cartridges inserted into the device. No smoke or combustion is involved; the device emits only vapor when used.

Use in California

Currently there is no California or federal law that restricts where people can use e-cigarettes. Unless your local smokefree law defines “smoking” to include e-cigarette use, the use of this product may be legal in places where smoking cigarettes is prohibited. If you are in California and you are uncertain whether your local smokefree air law prohibits the use of e-cigarettes in public places, we can review your local ordinance. If your community would like to amend its local ordinance to ban the use of e-cigarettes in places smoking is prohibited, our model smokefree housing, recreational areas, and beaches ordinances have language that could be adapted for that purpose.

Voluntary policies may also be used to restrict e-cigarette use. Businesses and private property owners can adopt policies to restrict or prohibit the use of e-cigarettes on their premises. Employers may adopt such policies with regard to their employees, and landlords can include lease provisions prohibiting tenants from smoking e-cigarettes.

Sale in California

California law prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors (California Health and Safety Code § 119405). In most local tobacco retailer licensing laws in California, selling e-cigarettes to a minor is a license violation. E-cigarette violations can currently be enforced because tobacco retailer licensing laws automatically incorporate new tobacco control laws as soon as they go into effect.

Local governments in California also can create a new law to require a business have a tobacco retailer license to sell e-cigarettes. If you are in California, we are funded to review your community's current licensing ordinance at no charge to see if it covers e-cigarettes, and help draft language to amend the law to include these devices.

E-cigarette restrictions in other locations

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently said it interprets the federal regulations that prohibit smoking on airplanes to apply to e-cigarettes. Several state and local governments have also enacted laws that restrict the sale or use of e-cigarettes.  For example, New Jersey law restricts the use of e-cigarettes in workplaces and other indoor public places, and prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The states of Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Tennessee, as well as Washington State’s King, Spokane, and Tacoma Counties, are also examples of jurisdictions that prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.[1]

For more information about the state of federal law with regard to e-cigarettes, please see our our fact sheet “Electronic Cigarettes: How They Are – and Could Be – Regulated," and our FAQ “Are E-Cigarettes Regulated by the FDA?

If you have any questions about e-cigarettes or if you would like us to review your local ordinance to see if it prohibits the use or sale of e-cigarettes, please contact us. (Please note, we are only funded to provide free technical assistance within the State of California. If you are located outside of California and would like us to review your ordinance, we can do so for a fee.)

[1] www.njgasp.org/E-Cigs_White_Paper.pdf