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LA City Council mulls e-cigarette, vaping ban

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-11 01:03

Cashier Lorna Pine works register at Friedman’s Home Improvement in Sonoma, California, which remained open with limited electricity from a backup generator, on Wednesday. Employees escorted customers through the darkened store with flashlights and headlamps. Pacific Gas & Electric has cut power to more than 500,000 customers in Northern California, with the objective of preventing wildfires during dry, windy weather throughout the region.[PHOTO/AGENCIES]

A motion introduced in the Los Angeles City Council could lead to a ban on all all e-cigarettes and vaping products pending approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If passed, the measure would be one of the strictest proposals by a local government in the US in response to a multistate outbreak of lung ailments associated with e-cigarettes.

The motion, introduced by council member Paul Koretz during Tuesday's council meeting, would direct the city attorney to draft an ordinance that will prohibit the sale of all e-cigarette and vaping devices until/if they receive FDA approval.

Because the FDA has not approved such devices, the ordinance would essentially ban all of them.

The proposal has since been referred to the Health, Education, Neighborhood, Parks, Arts and River Committee. Before it could come before the full City Council for consideration, it will have to pass a review by the health committee.

"The reports of illness and death caused by unregulated vaping devices is a public health crisis," reads the motion.

"The City of Los Angeles is not content to wait and do nothing as the numbers of illnesses and even deaths associated with unregulated vaping devices increases daily," it added.

As of Oct 1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 1,080 lung injury cases related to the use of e-cigarette, or vaping across 48 states and the US Virgin Islands. In California, there have been more than 100 cases of lung injury.

Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states, including two in California, one of those in Los Angeles County.

The CDC report noted that the latest findings suggest products containing THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical responsible for most of marijuana's psychological effects, plays a role in the outbreak.

However, it said "no single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases".

While the investigation is still ongoing, the CDC urged people to refrain from using e-cigarettes or vaping products, particularly with THC.

"No one in Los Angeles apparently wants to look uncool by bringing up very real dangers posed by illicit THC products," Gregory Conley, president of the advocacy group American Vaping Association, told the Los Angeles Times. "But unless they want these illnesses and deaths to continue to happen, someone has to do it."

The public health emergency has spurred flurries of actions by lawmakers. Amid growing concern over the vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths, the Trump administration has proposed a national ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Officials in Michigan, New York, Massachusetts all have stepped in to impose vaping bans.

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on Sept. 16 that requires retailers to put up warning signs about the health risk of vaping, among other things. In June, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

At VapeMastaz, a vaping shop in Pasadena, California, several consumers stopped by to pick out products and chatted with the store manager Rikk.

Rikk, who didn't give his last name, said he used to be a smoker who went through four packs of cigarettes a day, but vaping has helped him eliminate the addiction to traditional cigarettes. He has been a vaper for more than nine years now.

"Steve", a customer in the store, called the recent laws against vaping "unconstitutional".

"It hasn't had proper legal due process; (politicians) can't shut down factories because they have phobia, unfounded phobia," he said.

According to Rikk, the store saw an average of 50 walk-in customers a day, before the flavored e-cigarette ban.

"For the most part, this particular brick-and-mortar store will be affected, along with others that operate in Southern California, if not even nationwide there," he said when asked about the economic impact of a possible ban.

"For the most part, the ones that I fear the most for are the loyal guests that we have, [who are] particularly going to revert back to traditional cigarettes, because I know a lot of them are not ready to give up the nicotine wagon there," he added.

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