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Los Angeles County bans flavored tobacco products amid rising health worries

Vaping-related death toll rises

Los Angeles County on Tuesday banned flavored tobacco products including e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco and menthol cigarettes amid concerns that the products appeal to young people. The county's Board of Supervisors is also urging California Gov. Gavin Newsom to pass a statewide ban on vaping as health concerns grow. 

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt the ban, which comes amid a widening health crisis, with more than a hundred California residents who vape having been hospitalized for lung damage. 

The regulations are opposed by business owners and advocates of vaping who say e-cigarettes help people quit smoking. The vote came on a second reading after initial approval last week.

The ordinance takes effect in 30 days. Retailers will then have 180 days to clear their shelves of flavored tobacco and apply for updated licenses required under the new rules.

Los Angeles County joins a growing list of localities that are banning or considering banning some vaping products, with Washington state last week calling for a ban of flavored e-cigarettes. MichiganNew York and Rhode Island all declared emergency bans this month on flavored vaping products, excluding tobacco flavor. 

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker went even further when he declared a public health emergency and ordered a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping devices in the state, not just flavored products. 

Users won't be punished

County lawyers say online sales will not be prohibited, and users will not be punished under the ordinance, KNBC-TV reported.

Flavored tobacco products are "driving the current vaping epidemic among youth," county Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the board last week.

"As the number of vaping-related deaths and hospitalizations climb, and as more states have taken steps to protect youth from the harmful effects of vaping products, we need to support our state leaders and ask them to step in to protect the public," said Supervisor Hilda Solis in a written statement following the vote. Solis introduced the motion.

The e-cigarette industry faces mounting scrutiny from federal and local governments over youth vaping as the 14th U.S. death linked to vaping was reported in Nebraska. 

Tuesday's vote would affect Los Angeles County's unincorporated areas and their approximately 1 million residents. The move also would effectively ban the sales of the flavored products, including menthol, to everyone.

Newsom said last week that he wants lawmakers to send him legislation next year to ban vaping. Meanwhile California will spend $20 million on a public awareness campaign about the dangers of vaping nicotine and cannabis products and step up efforts to halt the sale of illicit products.

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