SACRAMENTO (AP) — 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 amid a rise in vaping-related illnesses.
Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the actions Monday as part of an executive order.
Many of the hundreds of nationwide vaping illnesses appear linked to use of cannabis-based oils, though some people reported vaping nicotine products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California has seen at least 63 cases and one of the six deaths reported around the country.
At the same time, flavored e-cigarettes made by companies such as Juul Labs are contributing to a rise in youth smoking. The public awareness campaign Newsom announced aims to tackle all forms of vaping, he said.
"As a father of four, this has been an issue that has been brought to the forefront of my consciousness," he said.
While President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have announced plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, Newsom said he doesn't have similar executive authority. But he said he wants lawmakers to send him legislation to do so next year. A similar effort failed this year.
Beyond the public awareness campaign, Newsom has directed the state departments of public health and tax and fee administration to explore ways to warn people about the potential dangers of vaping and tackle the sale of illicit products.
He's asked the public health department to explore new warning signs at retailers and in advertisements.
On the tax side, he's asking officials to consider changing how e-cigarettes are taxed, because they typically face lower taxes than traditional cigarettes. Making the products more expensive to buy could make them harder for teenagers to purchase, he argued.
Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Juul Labs says it agrees that there is a need to crack down on counterfeit and knockoff vaping products.
Juul spokesman Ted Kwong says the company has taken aggressive actions to combat youth vaping. But just last week an Illinois teenager sued the company arguing it deliberately markets to young people.
Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association says the regulated cannabis industry wants to see the nicotine industry follow the same rigorous standards that it does.
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