In California, local governments are taking the lead to ban vaping products. Here’s why

September 27, 2019

By Ana Ibarra
Kaiser Health News/California Healthline
via The Sacramento Bee

States are piling on.

Michigan took the first statewide shot at vaping early this month when it announced a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarette products. It was soon joined by New York, and Rhode Island jumped in Wednesday. Massachusetts went further, announcing Tuesday that it would prohibit the sale of all vaping flavors and devices for four months.

But in California — which prides itself on progressive policies — lawmakers this year punted on a proposal for a statewide ban on flavored tobacco products.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this month added that he didn’t have the authority to enact a flavor ban, as others states have, and instead announced funding for a new public awareness campaign and increased enforcement of the sale of e-cigarettes.

In the absence of a statewide ban — and as the number of people getting sick or dying from vaping mounts — California cities and counties are stepping in, including major population centers such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Local governments are taking the lead because they have to, said Tom Butt, the mayor of Richmond, Calif., which recently adopted a sweeping ordinance that bans the sale of all vaping products starting Jan. 1. The ban was modeled after the one San Francisco adopted in June.

“That’s where change happens first, in the cities,” Butt said. “Some states and particularly Congress are really slow to act on things like this.”

Livermore’s City Council approved a similar ban, and the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office expects to present one to county officials for consideration within the next few months.

Nearly 50 California jurisdictions prohibit or restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products or are considering ordinances. E-liquids, which are heated in vaping devices and can contain nicotine or marijuana, come in flavors like strawberry-pineapple and sweet desserts. Health officials are concerned that the flavors appeal to teens and preteens.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a final vote on a proposal to ban the retail sale of all flavored tobacco products in the county’s unincorporated communities, home to about 1 million people.