Measures would ban sale of vaping products in county

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SAN DIEGO -- A series of ordinances were announced Thursday to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco in unincorporated county areas until further information can be gathered on the potential health risks.

Details of the anti-vaping campaign were announced Thursday by county supervisors Dianne Jacob and Nathan Fletcher, who cited reports from county health officials indicating an uptick in local hospitalizations related to vaping.

"We don't know what the health impacts [of vaping products] are," said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. "What we know is that 43 San Diegans have been hospitalized because of vaping and e-cigarettes. What we know is that people across this country are dying."

The new ordinances include a moratorium on e-cigarette device sales, a ban on flavored cigarette sales and restrictions on smoking in outdoor areas, all of which would apply to unincorporated cities. A staff review shows the ordinance would impact well over 300 businesses that sell flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

The e-cigarette device moratorium would last for one year, or until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents a report indicated the risks of vaping have been properly assessed.

"We'll be having a tobacco retail licensing ordinance brought before us that would require all of those entities that sell tobacco products to license and register with the county of San Diego which would give us a better mechanism and vehicle to enforce," said Fletcher.

The initiatives will be voted on next week by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Following Tuesday's hearing, the board will hold a second hearing later this month regarding the ordinances. Approval would see the ordinances effective and enforceable by July 1.

"It's critical that we do all we can now to address this nationwide crisis as health experts work overtime to find out what's behind it," Jacob said. "With lives hanging in the balance, doing nothing is not an option."

The latest vaping-related injury was confirmed Wednesday by county health officials, bringing San Diego County vaping-associated lung injury cases to 43, while three more cases remain under investigation. None of the instances resulted in deaths, but all such patients had to be hospitalized, officials said.

Patients have ranged in age from 17 to 70.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say there have been at least 55 confirmed deaths nationwide associated with e-cigarette use, in addition to about 2,500 hospitalizations.

"As stewards of public health, we have a responsibility to raise awareness and act in the best interest of the public to protect them," Fletcher said. "Right now, we simply do not know enough about the chemicals being consumed and their impacts. We are acting in a similar fashion to other jurisdictions in California, we are acting with an abundance of caution."

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