Newsom takes executive action to fight surge in vaping

FILE PHOTO Vape paraphernalia on display at vaping symposium. Bobby Block/ The Signal

Less than a week after Santa Clarita heard from local experts about the dangers of vaping, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide crackdown Monday on illicit electronic cigarettes, and plans for a public awareness campaign. 

The governor signed an executive order that became effective immediately, to reduce the consumption and availability of vaping products to the youth by means of multiple efforts, including increased enforcement and the removal of counterfeit vaping products from stores. 

The California Department of Public Health was also directed to establish warning signs about health risks wherever vaping products are sold and in advertisements, as well as launch a $20 million statewide vaping awareness campaign focused on educating the youth, young adults and parents. 

The response comes after “dramatic increases in youth vaping,” and rising health concerns as a result. At least six vaping-related deaths across the country and more than 60 cases of vaping-related illnesses in California have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Part of the increase in use and access is linked “to the many flavors (such as mango, mint and crème brûlée) and packaging that’s done in such a manner that kids can get easily and believe (vaping) is not a real cigarette and not harmful,” said Aakash Ahuja, a Santa Clarita-based, state-certified psychiatrist. 

“The marketing of these products is clearly geared toward young people, which is alarming since we really don’t have a full picture of the health consequences of vaping,” state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said Tuesday. “Until more is known about what is causing the recent uptick in poisonings and death, it makes sense to hit the pause button.”  

At least 37% of high school seniors are using vape products, and 67% of all students said vape products are easy to get, according to Bob Sharits of The Way Out Recovery Santa Clarita Valley, during a parent resource symposium on Aug. 11 at City Hall.

While the governor has indicated support for banning all flavored e-cigarettes, the plan is to work with state legislators in 2020 to execute the ban as he currently is unable to do so without legislative action. 

Newsom also signed Senate Bill 39, which will impose stricter age-verification requirements for tobacco products sold via mail or online. The bill received support from all local lawmakers. 

“As we see an escalation of vaping-related illnesses and deaths, we must take decisive action to stop the vaping epidemic, especially for our youth,” said Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita. “The governor’s executive order and Sen. Jerry Hill’s Senate Bill 39 will help steer public health in the right direction and diminish youth access to vaping products.” 

Last week, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, introduced Assembly Bill 1833 to regulate cannabis vapes by demanding more stringent quality control and testing practices. The bill is currently gathering public input and is expected to be heard when the Legislature returns next year, according to Lackey spokesman George Andrews.  

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