The move comes amid growing national awareness of the harmful health effects of electronic cigarettes, which heat liquids to produce an aerosol that is inhaled. The liquids often contain nicotine; some contain THC or CBD, which are derived from marijuana plants.
Nearly 400 cases of lung illnesses across 36 states have been linked to vaping, according to data issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least six deaths have been linked to e-cigarette products in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon.
The precise cause of the lung illness has not been determined, according to the CDC. There has been at least one death in California linked to vaping, according to the governor’s office, along with 63 instances of respiratory ailments.
As e-cigarettes have become more popular, so too have counterfeit products that are made in unregulated settings and are suspected to be behind many of the vaping-related illnesses. California does not regulate e-cigarettes the same way as traditional cigarettes and there is no certification process for products that are made safely.
Newsom indicated he would have liked to go further in his actions against vaping products during remarks in Sacramento on Monday. But he said it did not appear he could instate an outright ban on e-cigarette products without legislative action.
“The fact is, they should be banned,” he said. “I would like to see that bill on my desk and I would like to sign a bill to eliminate the legal use of flavored e-cigarettes. Absolutely.”
Newsom also said his administration was investigating the extent to which it can raise taxes on e-cigarette products through executive authority, to bring the tax up to parity with traditional tobacco products. Nick Maduros, the director of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, said he had been directed by the governor to seek a certification process for e-cigarette products similar to one for tobacco.
“In the absence of any substantive bills to sign in this space we believe it is appropriate for us to take executive action on this matter,” Newsom said. “We want to see how far we can go in this endeavor.”
“As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids,” Newsom said in a statement. “With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis.”
Other states have taken more drastic steps to address the public health crisis, and the federal government has signaled it is considering a nationwide ban. In June, San Francisco became the first city in the country to ban the sale of e-cigarettes, citing the rising rates of nicotine addiction among teenagers.
The Food and Drug Administration said this month that Juul Labs, the best-known e-cigarette company in the country, had illegally marketed its products by claiming they were less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
Political leaders at all levels of government have faced increased demands for action as the news of vaping-related illnesses has spread. Last week, the Trump administration announced it intended to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes within the coming weeks. The FDA is taking the lead on outlining such a plan, according to Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services.
Newsom applauded the Trump administration’s announcement but said political leaders across the country should also pursue their own actions.
Several states have stepped in to install immediate bans.
On Sunday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said his administration intended to issue an emergency regulation that would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The move follows the state’s decision this summer to raise the minimum age to purchase e-cigarettes to 21. (The ban in New York would not affect the sale of tobacco or menthol-flavored products, according to Cuomo.)
This month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
More than 80% of California high school students who use tobacco use e-cigarettes, according to data provided by the governor’s office, and nearly 90% of those students are using flavored products.
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