San Diego

Board of Supervisors Takes Next Step in Vaping, E-Cigarette Ban

Since the end of August, there have been upwards of 800 cases of lung illnesses related to vaping nationwide, more than a dozen of which resulted in death.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to take the next steps in banning the sale of flavored tobacco products and placing a moratorium on untested vaping devices in unincorporated areas of San Diego County.

The moratorium will last one year while the county assesses health risks associated with vaping. The county also moved to ban smoking on commercial outdoor patios.

“Today the Board took decisive action to protect the health of our constituents... While we respect people’s rights, we must act to protect the public health interests of our community," Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a statement.

The board meeting in Kearny Mesa was standing-room-only, filled with about 70 people in favor of and in opposition to the ban.

Critics of the ban say it's a product of government overreach.

"I want to keep our community safe, but this is an overreach by the government that doesn’t address the actual issue," Supervisor Jim Desmond said in a statement.

He also said the ban will force users to turn to the black market to purchase illicit products which will end up doing more harm.

Desmond said the board's decision fails to address the use of similar THC and CBD products, which he said are associated with more than 95 percent of the county's reported vaping-related illnesses.

No date for when the ban will take effect has been set, but the county's Chief Administration Officer will present more specific enactment plans to the board within 60 days.

Melissa Wise is an e-cigarette user. She told NBC 7 before the vote that she thinks an e-cigarette ban would miss the point. 

"I think that it is masking a bigger issue of how much money the tobacco industry is owed and by whom," she said. "It is helping people with regulation, sure, but to take it away, that's just forcing people back to where they want people -- on cigarettes and sick."

The move comes as lung-related illnesses rise across the nation. 

Since August, about 1,300 people have been hospitalized from vaping-related illnesses and at least 29 have died, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Of those injured, 80 percent reported using products containing THC, the high-inducing chemical found in marijuana. They have not traced the problem to any single product or ingredient. Vaping products with THC are sold on the black market, and not in stores.

In San Diego County alone, 22 people have been hospitalized in that same time frame.

"The reality is there is so much we don't know about these devices and about these products but what we do know is people are being hospitalized and people are dying and we don't know why," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said. 

The board will discuss what they heard from the public Tuesday before putting a proposal together.

The proposal goes to the full Board of Supervisors on Oct. 15. If passed, it would take up to three months to implement. And while the ban would be specifically for unincorporated San Diego County, Supervisor Fletcher would like to see it expand county-wide.

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