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Laguna Beach considers restricting sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products

A woman exhales while vaping from a Juul pen e-cigarette in Vancouver, Wash.
A woman uses an e-cigarette. The Laguna Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to move ahead with potentially restricting the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products in the city.
(Craig Mitchelldyer / AP)

Restrictions on flavored tobacco and vaping products may be on the way for Laguna Beach.

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to look at expanding Laguna’s current no-smoking ordinance to bar the sale of those products. City rules already prohibit smoking and vaping in all public areas.

The move is in response to concerns regarding youth use of flavored tobacco and vaping products and comes amid growing health concerns following an outbreak of serious lung illness tied to vaping.

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Councilwoman Toni Iseman said she was concerned about vaping — the use of electronic devices, commonly called e-cigarettes, to inhale vapor that’s been heated from a liquid pod — even before the issue became national news. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded at least six deaths and 450 possible cases of severe lung diseases linked to vaping across the country since April.

Iseman initially raised her concerns at the council’s Jan. 22 meeting and said she wanted the city to conduct “stings” at liquor and grocery stores to discourage and catch underage vaping.

“When I became aware of the huge number of students and young people who are vaping, I thought it was a very significant consideration in terms of public health because [vaping’s] a nicotine delivery system,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

The 2017-18 California Healthy Kids Survey found that about 29% of juniors at Laguna Beach High School reported that they had used an electronic smoking device at some point in the 30 days leading up to the survey — one of the highest rates in Orange County and nearly triple the state’s average of 10%, according to a city staff report.

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“I’ve had parents say, ‘Oh well. We can’t do anything about it, everyone’s doing it.’ But this is a life sentence for some people who can’t give up nicotine,” Iseman said. “I think drawing attention to it is important and ... the next step is to ensure we don’t sell anything in the city limits that [has] anything to do with vaping.”

Iseman acknowledged that the city could not keep residents from ordering electronic smoking devices or e-liquids online or going out of town to purchase them, but added, “To think we’d allow the sale [of flavored tobacco products] in town makes no sense at all.”

Following the council’s direction, city staff will return at a later date with a draft ordinance for further discussion and consideration. If adopted, the restrictions on flavored tobacco and vaping products may affect as many as 20 businesses throughout Laguna Beach. Council members also requested those merchants be notified in advance of any hearing on the potential ordinance.

There is currently no state law restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products, though Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced plans to crack down on illegal e-cigarettes and step up efforts to reduce youth vaping.

President Donald Trump also has said his administration plans to ban vaping products with sweet or fruity flavors due to concerns regarding potential health hazards associated with e-cigarettes and their increasing use by teenagers.

No Orange County cities have banned such sales either, according to the American Lung Assn. in California. The first California county to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco was Santa Clara County in 2010.

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