With the goal of creating a stronger regional effort to stop children from vaping, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher addressed the Encinitas Youth Commission on Feb. 5 about some of the progress made so far.
“We are really encouraging cities to replicate what the county did in hopes we can create a broader regional impact,” said Fletcher, whose district extends north to La Jolla and UC San Diego.
By a 3-2 vote last month, the county supervisors approved a one-year moratorium on sales of electronic smoking devices, prohibition of flavored vaping liquid that has become popular among children, and a ban on smoking or vaping in outdoor dining areas. The new regulations apply only to San Diego’s unincorporated area.
Supervisors Kristin Gaspar, who represents Encinitas, and Jim Desmond voted against the new laws, introduced by Fletcher and Supervisor Dianne Jacob, with support from Supervisor Greg Cox. At an October meeting, when the restrictions were first proposed, Gaspar said the laws would unfairly impact business owners who legally sell those products. She also said the law wouldn’t address the black market tactics, including illegal social media marketing, that are used to sell nicotine products and marijuana to children.
But Fletcher told the Youth Commissioners, who are local students appointed to one-year terms, that the adverse health effects of vaping are “really ravaging our entire country right now.” He said he became addicted to nicotine when he started using Skoal Bandits, a type of smokeless tobacco, during his childhood in rural Arkansas. Three gum surgeries later, Fletcher said he still relies on nicotine cessation products.
“I know firsthand one, how incredibly destructive tobacco is, but two, how incredibly addictive nicotine is,” he added.
One of the Youth Commissioners, 11th-grader Evelyn Sakai, said she has classmates who are addicted to vaping products.
In the United States as of Jan. 21, there have been 2,711 cases of hospitalization from lung complications caused by e-cigarettes and vaping, including 60 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has also reported a decline in emergency room visits caused by e-cigarettes in vaping over the last few months, possibly because of the growing public awareness of the dangers.
“What Encinitas does here is incredibly impactful and can have a really important role in shaping the future of what we’re doing,” Fletcher said.
Nationwide, some of the worst cases include a 15-year-old from Texas who became the youngest vaping-related fatality, and a Michigan teen who needed a double-lung transplant. Fletcher said the tobacco industry has pivoted to targeting children with vaping products due to declining cigarette sales.
“Big tobacco does not care about the impact on public health, it does not care about the impact on youth, it doesn’t care about the impact on families,” Fletcher said. “They only care about making money.”