Kern County officials are considering a vaping ban following a recent spate of injuries that have been linked to usage of e-cigarettes.
The Kern County Public Health Department is drafting a list of possible actions that could be taken by the Board of Supervisors at their Nov. 5 meeting. The department plans to add some version of a vaping ban to the list, which could also include restrictions on where the devices could be used.
“We are exploring all options to ensure that we can protect public health,” said Public Health Director Matt Constantine. “Other communities have implemented a ban or a limited ban. It is our intention to at least have that discussion.”
While specific details of the potential actions – or even the complete list – have not yet been developed, supervisors could vote on one or more of the options as soon as it is brought before them in November.
The ban could potentially move forward at that date.
“If there’s an imminent danger to our community, I don’t want that to be delayed,” said Supervisor Mike Maggard.
He said the unregulated nature of the liquid used for e-cigarettes, combined with the availability of the product to minors, convinced him that something should be done in Kern County.
“These flavors that are targeted at children, there ought to be some way to do something about that,” he said, adding later, “the vast majority of people, I’m convinced, don’t want our children to be seduced into something that will hurt them for the rest of their life.”
So far, vaping has caused more than 1,000 lung injury cases and 18 deaths across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since Sept. 24, Kern Public Health has logged three hospitalizations that have been associated with vaping, including one that involved a minor.
Health officials have yet to determine a cause for the injuries and deaths. The California Department of Public Health has advised everyone to refrain from vaping until an investigation into the cause of the injuries can be completed.
Both counties of Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the city of San Francisco, have banned the sales of vaping products within municipal borders.
Kern Public Health will consider the bans in those areas when drafting its own potential ban.
The city of Los Angeles has also proposed banning the sales of the devices, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has said he would sign legislation that would ban the products statewide.
The marketing of vaping products to children, especially girls, has raised alarm among lawmakers, and health officials say that just because e-cigarettes may seem safe, doesn't mean they really are.
“We are concerned that the perception is that this is a safe activity, when in fact the chemicals that are burned and then inhaled are not regulated and the ingredients are not known,” Constantine said. “That presents a strong risk to our community and at the very least they need to be aware of the risks associated with that activity.”