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Bay Area cities should get behind vaping ban

Federal and state inaction on the risk of vaping is unacceptable.

The national death toll from e-cigarette use is at 48 and climbing. Four Californians have died of respiratory illnesses connected to vaping. An additional 2,291 people across the country, including 161 Californians, have been hospitalized for severe breathing problems and lung damage related to e-cigarette use this year.

It’s imperative that every Bay Area city and county join the effort to ban e-cigarette and flavored tobacco sales.

Palo Alto and Menlo Park are the most recent cities to consider ordinances. Palo Alto City Councilman Greg Tanaka and two of his colleagues brought the issue before the City Council on Monday night.  Menlo Park city officials will consider Tuesday whether to crack down on access to e-cigarette products.

The two cities should join Santa Clara, San Mateo and Contra Costa counties and the cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond, Livermore, Lafayette and El Cerrito in regulating vaping in some form.

Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller has it right when he raises concerns of an “epidemic of vaping in our schools.”

A survey of 6,000 Santa Clara County high school students this year found that nearly one-third have tried vaping at least once and about 13 percent reported they currently use e-cigarettes.  That’s a major increase from a 2015 survey, which reported that 18 percent of students had tried vaping at least once and 6 percent reported using e-cigarettes.

Nearly 50 percent of the students surveyed who currently use e-cigarettes indicated that they bought the devices themselves. The reality is that if e-cigarettes are banned in their city and county, they would simply go to a neighboring location to make their purchases. That makes it essential that all Bay Area cities and counties join the effort to eliminate vaping in the region.

It’s outrageous that the federal government allowed e-cigarette firms to bring their products to market without a thorough review of potential health concerns. The industry’s claims that electronic tobacco products help smokers quit their habit are largely unfounded.

In 2009, Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act, giving the FDA immediate authority to regulate cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco. But it wasn’t until May 2016 that the FDA issued a rule making additional tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, nicotine gels and waterpipe tobacco, subject to FDA’s regulatory authority.  The FDA also decided in 2016 that the tobacco industry would be given until 2020 to comply with the new regulations.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that smoking-related illness in the United States costs more than $300 billion each year and is responsible for 480,000 deaths per year. We cannot allow the rapid increase in vaping to exacerbate the problem. Until the federal and state governments take action, cities and counties must step up and ban e-cigarette sales throughout the Bay Area.

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