San Diego County leaders on Monday called for a ban on the sale of vaping devices and flavored tobacco products in unincorporated areas as lung-related illnesses rise across the nation.
"We are leading in San Diego in calling for a ban on flavored products that target our children and a moratorium on the untested vaping devices until such time as the public health risks have been properly assessed," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said alongside Supervisor Diane Jacob and Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten.
Since the end of August, there have been upwards of 800 cases of lung illnesses related to vaping nationwide, more than a dozen of which resulted in death. In San Diego County, 22 illnesses are believed to be tied to vaping devices.
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The ban did not come as a surprise to Dr. Laura Cotty Alexander of UC San Diego, who has studied vaping devices and flavor chemicals for more than half a decade.
"None of [the devices] have been looked at in terms of safety in terms of, 'Is it dangerous to inhale these flavors in combination with THC? in combination with nicotine or alone,'" she said.
Many industry businesses have pointed to the black market of vapes and cartridge sales as the primary culprit for toxic ingredients, still health officials say the specific chemical causing all these injuries is still unknown.
"From studying them for the last six years, I can tell you that most of the chemicals are going to cause health effects. it's just going to take us time to clearly define them," Alexander said.
So for now, laws like the one proposed in San Diego are being implemented as a "Better safe, than sorry" tactic.
The proposal goes to the full Board of Supervisors on Oct. 15. If passed, it would take up to three months to implement. And while the ban would be specifically for unincorporated San Diego County, Supervisor Fletcher said he expects other cities within the county to follow suit.