LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s governor on Monday ordered a public awareness campaign on health risks from vaping, part of a multi-pronged effort to combat what he called a “youth epidemic,” but said he lacked authority to impose a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.
Governor Gavin Newsom, acting a day after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced such a ban, became the latest politician seeking to crack down on e-cigarettes and other electronic inhaling – or vaping – devices, which have exposed a new generation of young people to nicotine hazards.
“We must take immediate action to meet the urgency behind this public health crisis and youth epidemic,” said Newsom, who leads the most populous U.S. state.
Public health officials have said fruit- and candy-flavored e-cigarettes are luring millions of teenagers into using vaping products and becoming addicted to the nicotine they contain.
The clamor for action has been spurred by a recent nationwide spate of sometimes deadly lung illnesses that U.S. health officials have linked to vaping of both nicotine and cannabis products.
Newsom’s executive order also directs state agencies to devise plans to remove illegal and counterfeit vaping products from sale and make recommendations for health warnings that retailers and advertisers of vaping products would be required to post.
In addition, state officials were directed to recommend nicotine standards and uniform packaging for purposes of including nicotine content in the calculation of existing e-cigarette taxes. Newsom also signed legislation tightening age verification requirements for the sale of tobacco products.
NEW YORK STATE AND CHICAGO
On Sunday, Cuomo said New York state’s health commissioner would formally ban all flavored e-cigarettes besides tobacco and menthol later this week.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Monday she was leading a move to ban the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products in the third-largest U.S. city.
President Donald Trump’s administration last week announced plans to remove flavored e-cigarettes from store shelves nationwide.
At a news conference in the state capital, Sacramento, Newsom urged state legislators to send him a bill in its next session to ban flavored e-cigarettes in California, saying he lacked the power to impose such restrictions outright.
The Democratic governor unveiled a package of measures, including a $20 million statewide social media campaign to educate young people about health dangers from vaping nicotine and cannabis products.
Newsom cited data showing vaping devices were the most commonly used tobacco products in California and that more than 80% of high school students who consume tobacco do so by vaping.
He also said nearly 87% of California teens who consumed tobacco products reported using a flavored product, and that more than 15,500 e-liquid flavors were on the market.
The share of high school students using e-cigarettes has more than doubled over the past two years, with 27.5% reporting they had tried an e-cigarette in the past month, according to preliminary federal data released last week. That was up from 20.8% using e-cigarettes last year and 11.7% a year earlier.
The emergence of e-cigarettes has reversed gains made by public health authorities in curbing tobacco use by young people.
Nearly 400 people nationwide have been stricken with a lung illness that is potentially vaping-related, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six have died.
Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney