SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors today voted  to direct staffers to look into regulating electronic cigarette use under the  county's anti-tobacco policy.

``Ecigarettes,'' or vapor inhalers, allow users to puff on synthetic  nicotine without also inhaling tar and some other harmful substances common to  regular cigarettes. The battery-operated devices, which can be purchased online  and in smoke shops, do not use tobacco.

In a letter to their colleagues, Supervisors Dave Roberts and Ron  Roberts wrote that use of the devices could undermine county smoking  regulations and undermine efforts to make smoking no longer acceptable in  public places or at work.

They cited a U.S. Centers for Disease Control study that found the use  of ecigarettes among middle and high school students had doubled between 2011  and last year, and that 1.78 million of them have tried the devices. Use of the  inhalers might lead youth to try conventional tobacco products, they said.

County staffers were given 90 days to study the devices and the current  policy and make recommendations, following the 4-1 vote.

``We don't need our children or youth to see adults appear to be smoking  around our county facilities,'' Supervisor Dave Roberts said. ``I'm worried  about the perception of traditional cigarettes and ecigarettes and how they'll  dramatically change and undermine all the efforts we've put into prevention and  anti-smoking in our region.''

Supervisor Bill Horn, who cast the the sole dissenting vote, called the  measure ``over-regulation'' and ``micromanaging.''

``There is no evidence that younger people are moving to tobacco with  ecigarettes -- it's not there,'' Horn said.

Fabiola Elias-Ramsey, who owns two stores that sell the devices, said  the idea that ecigarettes are a gateway for youth to traditional cigarettes was  ``erroneous,'' and adults using the devices in public places could inspire  traditional cigarette smokers to switch and take control of their health.

``The best thing we can do for our children is to show them that as  adults, we can take responsibility for improving our own health and not expose  them to the very real and harmful risks of smoking,'' she said.

Supervisor Ron Roberts said that staffers should ``continue examining  the research, so we can define the parameters before we fully decide where  people can use and not use these devices in the public arena.''

``These things were not on the radar screen when we developed our  policy,'' he said. ``They raise a whole host of new issues.''

The city of Vista has banned the use of ecigarettes in public areas  where smoking is prohibited, and the Sweetwater Union High School District has  added vapor devices to its smoking policy.

Also at today's meeting, the supervisors directed staffers to begin  looking for a site for a future Palomar Mountain Fire Station that would  replace the existing one on Crestline Road, which they said lacked adequate  living facilities and storage space for use by the Palomar Mountain Volunteer  Fire Company.