The City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposed ban on electronic cigarettes.

City Manager John Pietig recommended adding e-cigarettes to the city's ordinance restricting the use in public of tobacco and other plants or weeds that are smoked. The proposed amendment is consistent with the council's long-standing desire to protect the public from secondhand smoke and to discourage the unhealthy habit of smoking, according to Pietig's summary.

"The secondhand vapor from an e-cig is no more harmful than the water vapor rising out of a cup of coffee," said Laguna Beach resident Peter French, regional vice president of Life LLC. "We sell health and wellness products. One of those products happens to be the electronic cigarette."

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavors and other chemicals, according to a July 22, 2009, news release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provided by Tom Kiklas, president and co-founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Assn.

FDA tests have detected dipropylene glycol in the cigarettes, but an Environmental Protection Agency release, also provided by Kiklas, states that studies conducted up to the testing limit established by the agency have shown dipropylene glycol not to be carcinogenic.

"I am not convinced that e-cigarettes are dangerous," said Councilman Steven Dicterow, who voted to reject a ban.

Councilwoman Toni Iseman, the council's most avid advocate of smoking bans as a person who is made ill by secondhand smoke, said she once sat next to a smoker puffing on an e-cigarette and could not smell anything.

"A secondary [e-cig] benefit is not dropping cigarette butts on the ground, and we could possibly be helping someone quit smoking," Iseman said.

Mayor Kelly Boyd, who quit smoking after being diagnosed with cancer but still sneaks the occasional puff, said a golfing buddy of his smokes electronic cigarettes and has cut back on tobacco products.

French compared the addictive quality of nicotine to that of caffeine.

"Nicotine has gotten a bad reputation over the years based on the company it keeps," French said. "Wrapped up in a traditional cigarette, nicotine is surrounded by thousands of chemicals, more than 60 of which are absolutely carcinogenic and many of which are more addictive than nicotine itself."

French said that since 2008, his sales have shown that thousands of people have moved away from traditional cigarettes.

"This is because it is an easy, effective and safe nicotine delivery system without other harmful chemicals, including tar and carbon monoxide," French said. "This technology should be embraced and celebrated, not vilified and feared out of ignorance. "