Gov. Newsom Signs Executive Order to Tackle Teen Vaping

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Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol on Aug. 16, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Monday to address the skyrocketing rate of youth vaping and the health risks related to it.

The executive order calls for warnings on advertisements and at stores where e-cigarettes are sold, a $20 million vaping awareness campaign, including messages conveyed through social media, and increased enforcement of the removal of illegal vaping products. The order also calls on the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to consider nicotine content in the calculation of the existing tax on e-cigarettes.

In addition, Newsom announced that he signed SB 39 by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, which would impose stricter age verification requirements for tobacco products sold online or through the mail.

“We must take immediate action to meet the urgency behind this public health crisis and youth epidemic,” Newsom said. “As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids. With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis.”

Newsom added: “There is a broad and bipartisan coalition of legislators seeking to protect our youth, and we are committed to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to build on these executive actions and put forward a strong tobacco reform package in 2020.”

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Last year, one in five high school seniors reported vaping in the previous month. That’s almost double the number who reported vaping the year before. Even eighth-graders are vaping in record numbers.

Vaping and Health

These increases come following years of decline of teenagers smoking traditional cigarettes.

Public health officials are concerned about the rising number of teenagers using e-cigarettes, because nicotine can harm a young person’s developing brain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that young people who vape may be more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes.

While it is already illegal for people under 21 to purchase tobacco products — including e-cigarettes — in California, young people are still getting the devices.

Many politicians and public health officials attribute the increase in youth vaping to flavored vapor products and advertising they say is targeted at youth.

In recent months, California has seen several cases of respiratory failure in previously healthy people linked to vaping marijuana purchased on the street. As of Sept. 10, 62 cases of the syndrome have been reported in California. Hundreds of cases have been reported nationwide.