County Leaders Ban Vaping, Flavored Smoking Product Sales

Dozens of people for and against the ban showed up to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a vaping ban for unincorporated areas of San Diego County with a 3-2 vote on Tuesday.

About seventy people spoke for and against the vaping ban in front of the County Board of Supervisors, including a 16-year-old boy from Hoover High School.

"I honestly don't think it's not going to prevent any e-cigarette use for youth but it's at least one step to harder access to it," said Chris Acolt, student in favor of the ban.

The ordinance has three parts: to prohibit the sale of flavored smoking products, to establish a one-year moratorium on the sale of electronic smoking devices, and to prohibit smoking in outdoor dining areas. The ban also includes smokeless tobacco products.

The regulations were proposed by Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Dianne Jacob in response to an outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses across the nation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 55 people have died nationwide as a result of vaping, and more than 2,600 have been sent to the hospital. Of those who fell ill, 82 percent reported using THC, a chemical-inducing high found in marijuana, in their vaping products.

Here in San Diego County, 43 illnesses have been linked to vaping.

The CDC points out that the majority of these illnesses have been linked to vaping devices that contain THC and are purchased on the black market. However, the CDC says there is no safe tobacco product.

The ordinance was meant to address those health concerns, as well as to reduce the access of e-cigarettes to minors and limit second-hand smoke exposure in the county, according to the ordinance.

Though the proposal is limited to unincorporated areas, Supervisor Fletcher believes other cities will follow suit.

Molly Sylvester, the owner of Vaping 619 in El Cajon, said flavored tobacco is better than cigarettes and has helped many of her customers quit smoking.

She said a ban on flavored tobacco will have a negative impact on her customers, as well as her business and many others in San Diego County. Her shop is one of nine vape shops in the unincorporated parts of the county, she said, and her five employees will lose their jobs with the passing ban and in less than 30 days, her business will have to shut down.

Selling vaping products to the youth is what county supervisors said they are trying to prevent and protect from continuing to happen.

But some smoke shop and vape shop owners who spoke at the meeting said they do not sell to the youth and argued they have a two-prong policy to prevent selling to the under-aged: They do not allow anyone under 21-years-old into their shops, and they need to scan their IDs.

"We're not the problem. We don't sell to the youth. They need to take a look at online sales, and they need to take a look at the product that's actually causing the problem," Sylvester said.

Others against the ban, who attended the meeting, said the ban will lead to worse problems.

"It's a guarantee that they'll either start smoking or they're going to access the black market and the black market has been around for quite some time. People create it in bathtubs, they create it in whatever products -- you don't have the registered and regulations and all different kinds of things that people can end up putting into exactly what the illicit THC problem was," said Shannon Cozzens, opposed to the vaping ban.

The board will adopt the legislation on Jan. 28.

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