The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have voted to make it illegal to buy or sell flavored tobacco or vaping products within county limits.
The county joins San Francisco, Michigan, and, most recently, Massachusetts, in banning flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Passing 5-0, the ban includes such products as menthol cigarettes and flavored vaping “juice.”
“For decades, we were making incredible progress in decreasing tobacco use among young people. But flavored e-cigarettes have reversed that trend. Now nearly 1 in 10 high schoolers report using e-cigarettes,” said County Supervisor Janice Hahn.
“By taking action now and banning the sale of flavored products that mask the smell and taste of tobacco, we may be able to save this next generation from the same terrible health effects of nicotine addiction that generations before them suffered from.”
The ban has come at the same time when vaping has been the suspected cause of hundreds of hospitalizations across the country, including 90 in California alone in the past two months. More than a dozen deaths due to vaping have also been reported, with two coming out of California.
Numerous calls have from public health officials and lawmakers for people to stop vaping, including Governor Gavin Newsom himself.
“People are getting sick and some are dying as a result of vaping,”stated Governor Newsom. “Californians are encouraged to stop vaping until health officials fully understand what’s causing this public health crisis.”
The recent outbreak in likely vaping-related hospitalizations has been the main catalyst behind the Los Angeles ban. However, heightened teenage use, public safety warnings, e-cigarette waste factors, and the image of vapers themselves were also reasons of the ban among supervisors. They almost identically mirror the reasons from the San Francisco ban earlier this year.
The Globe reached out to Dean Russo, a former vaping advocate who now runs programs in Southern California to help get others to stop smoking.
“Vaping has a certain image,” Russo told the Globe. “Generally, vaping is made to look like a cool alternative to smoking. It’s made perfectly for millennials and Generation Z because of how electronic it’s becoming.”
“You get to look like a smoker, but with none of the health benefits.”
“But now we’re seeing it,” he said. “My center has been visited by the board, and we’ve even gotten people like [U.S. Representative from California] Judy Chu in here wanting to know more. And they’ve told me the reason they don’t want vaping around because it’s the new tobacco smoking. They’re worried about teenagers picking it up.”
“This recent spurt of people going to the hospital because of vaping, that was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back, Russo said. But you need to understand that there has been a sentiment growing since vaping made it big earlier this decade that it’s like smoking minus the tar.It just seemed to hit a breaking point this year.”
“More and more, especially among younger people, vaping has been seen more as obnoxious. That’s the image that I’ve been talking about. And now with health risks becoming more prevalent, smoking and vaping are rapidly meaning the same thing to people,” he added.
Despite recent pleas from vaping supporters to protect vaping rights, other California cities and counties are currently looking into bans.
El Cajon, for example, is looking to become the first city in San Diego County to have a ban, based largely on health risks and the rise in teenage youth buying the products.
John Marks,a vaping supporter and shop owner, expressed his disappointment. “This is a product that helps people quit. There is nicotine in it, yeah, but the goal is to slowly use less and less over time. If more places ban this, we’re going to see smoking rates climb up. You’re going to see kids use something more dangerous.”
“We’re being squeezed as is. We’re a safer alternative to smoking, but now we are becoming the bad guys. We all feel trapped. We don’t know what to do.”
It is still unknown fully what the health risks are from e-cigarettes and if they can help people quit. However, there is growing evidence that vaping is almost as bad as smoking, with the CDC going so far as to label vaping risks as the same as tobacco risks. At the same time there has been limited evidence to prove that they do help some smokers quit.
More bans are expected across the nation by health experts, as the number of suspected vaping deaths and hospitalizations continues to grow.