California Dolphin: statewide California news

‘Vaping epidemic’: Health advocates call on local leaders to adopt tighter rules to protect youth

As the Food and Drug Administration captured national headlines Thursday announcing plans to reduce underage tobacco product use, health advocates in Fremont hosted a meeting on the issue, and called on local leaders to take further steps to protect youth from nicotine addiction.
About 50 people showed up Thursday evening to hear about the results of a recent study examining the offerings and pricing of tobacco products at retailers in Fremont.
Students, school board members and educators also spoke, sharing data about the negative health effects of tobacco and e-cigarette use, as well as personal anecdotes about the depth of the vaping trend in local high schools.
The meeting was hosted by the Tri-City Health Center, in conjunction with the city of Fremont and the Fremont Unified School District.
“It really is an epidemic,” Brian Davis, the health center’s tobacco control program coordinator said about vaping among youngsters.
A sampling of some of the various “juices” that are used in vaporizers are seen at Vapor Planes vaporizer shop in Fremont on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. 
“We want the community to be aware that this is what’s happening right here, and it’s not just something amorphous,” he said in an interview.
Over 300 varieties of tobacco flavors and products are available in Fremont retail shops, according to a survey of 82 stores the health center conducted. E-cigarettes, also known as vaporizers or vapes, were available at 56 of those stores, with the very popular Juul brand vape seen at 20 locations.
Juul vapes are produced by a San Francisco-based Juul Labs, and have a sleek, compact design that resembles a USB flash drive, making them easy to conceal.
The health center survey also found 188 unique flavors of e-liquid, the substance that is heated and vaporized in vapes, often sold in fruity and sweet varieties like mango and creme, which health advocates say are aimed at youth.
“Getting these products is very easy,” Vinh Phan, a senior at Irvington High School said during the meeting. He explained how many kids visit shops near school they know will sell tobacco products to them, despite California’s law that no one under the age of 21 can purchase them.
Flavored cigars and cigarillos were also widely available in local shops, sold as cheap as 99 cents for a pack of six, also with sweet flavors including grape, peach, mango, and strawberry, the survey found.
The FDA announced Thursday that it would restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and vapes to “adult only” stores, such as a smoke shops where age verification is required on entry. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also unveiled a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, though that could take years to complete.
However, Davis and other critics said there are many crucial loopholes in the restrictions.
While flavors that appear to be targeted at youth will be banned from being sold at convenience stores, tobacco, mint and menthol flavored e-cigarette cartridges and e-juices are exempt.
Convenience stores can also get around the restrictions by creating a separate, age-verified area in their stores where all flavored tobacco products could be sold.
“It’s really going to be hard to regulate these little hole in the wall operations,” Davis said.
Amanda Gutzwiller, an advocacy manager with the American Lung Association, said the FDA’s “partial solution to e-cigarettes will not stop the youth vaping epidemic.”
She said the “best means of reducing illegal tobacco sales to youth” are local tobacco retailer license ordinances, which 144 cities and counties in the state have already adopted.
The ordinances let local leaders to decide what restrictions to place on tobacco sales, such as bans and minimum pricing, and can include fees that can help pay for enforcement costs. The cities of San Leandro, Hayward, Oakland, Alameda, Sonoma, and Santa Clara County are some of the places with those ordinances in the Bay Area.
“So we encourage cities like Fremont to step up and protect our youth from a lifetime of deadly addiction and to pass a strong tobacco retailer license ordinance with a sufficient fee and restrictions on flavored tobacco products,” Gutzwiller said at the meeting.
From 2017 to 2018, the FDA reported there was a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students, rising to 3.6 million total students.
This news organization reported previously that as vaping and other electronic tobacco products have grown in popularity, the Fremont Police Department has not run a youth decoy operation — which catches retailers who sell tobacco products to underage youths —since 2014.
The department blamed short staffing for shelving the program, although county officials had offered the department funding multiple times in recent years to run an operation, which it either ignored or turned down.
Meanwhile, recent data Davis cited from the California Department of Public Health showed that more than a third of “adult only” smoke and vape shops sold tobacco products to 18- and 19 year-olds in similar operations.
“We know if we had just what the FDA is proposing, in Fremont, we would have 18-year-old seniors being able to go to these stores, and very likely being able to purchase these products,” Davis said of the federal government’s proposed restrictions.
Sonia Khan, a pediatrician and Human Relations Commissioner in Fremont said at the meeting the commission is working with city staff to put together a tobacco retailers licensing ordinance that the City Council could review early next year.
“Time is of the essence in terms of the number of kids that are getting addicted,” she said.
“There’s still a lot more work to be done,” Davis said. “And we don’t want communities to say, ‘Oh, the FDA is going to take care of it, we don’t have to do anything, we don’t have to worry about it,'” he said of the restrictions.
“Really, it’s local communities that need to take the lead.”

Top News

Ain't No God; don't even think about theism

UnFox News: not a propaganda arm of the Republican party