San Jose Looks to Join Bay Area Cities in Banning E-Cigs, Flavored Tobacco

21-year-old Anthony Seupaul vapes at Vapor Den in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Seupaul said vaping allowed him to ween off of smoking cigarettes. (Lauren Hanussak/KQED)

A San Jose official is pushing for a local ban on some vaping and flavored tobacco products.

The recommendations from San Jose city councilmember Magdalena Carrasco come shortly after the Trump administration and the Federal Drug Administration announced plans for an upcoming policy that would enable the removal of many flavored non-tobacco e-cigarettes from the market.

This follows a recent announcement from officials with the California Department of Public Health who say they’ve identified 67 potential cases of acute lung disease in people with a recent history of vaping since late June, including 6 in the Bay Area.

Carrasco’s recommendations further aim to limit young people’s access to tobacco products through the removal of a municipal code exemption that currently allows San Jose’s tobacco and vape shops to operate without a city license on the condition that people under 18 years of age aren’t admitted into the shop.

In a memo to the city last week, Carrasco states that this “loophole” leaves the city no recourse for unlicensed vendor violations and is out of date with the state-wide ban on the sale of tobacco products to people under 21 years of age since 2016.

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The city councilmember also cited a recent Santa Clara County Public Health report that found e-cigarette use has increased among teens in the county and statewide.

The report is based on a survey given to students at 18 Santa Clara County middle and high schools in which nearly one in three students surveyed reported having tried vaping. According to the report, about 13% of participating students reported using e-cigarettes within the last month.

According to San Jose public health officials, that’s slightly higher than the state’s rate for that age group and almost half the national rate.

The proposed changes in San Jose would also include regulations to limit “any further overconcentration of tobacco businesses,” especially near areas frequented by kids like schools and community centers.

The councilmember’s recommendations are set to be heard by the city’s Rules Committee next week.

If the city decides to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes, it would be following in the footsteps of San Francisco and Richmond.

The Bay Area-based company Juul Labs — one of the biggest producers of e-cigarettes in the country and a vocal opponent of San Francisco's ban — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, voters in Livermore are set to decide whether or not to ban these products this coming March.

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