EL CAJON, Calif. — On Monday, San Diego County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Nathan Fletcher called for a crackdown on products associated with vaping by proposing a ban on the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products, along with a moratorium on the sale and distribution of the e-devices.

Jacob’s and Fletcher’s proposed comes at a time when federal officials have confirmed 12 deaths nationwide associated with e-cigarette use, along with more than 800 related 2 lung injury illnesses, most of them since late August as well.

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“Vaping-related illnesses are a grave concern and we must take local action to address this fast-growing public health crisis,” said Jacob, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors.

In San Diego alone, since September 26, there have been 22 confirmed and probable vaping-associated pulmonary injury (VAPI) cases reported among county residents. Nearly two out of three of those affected are 18 to 24 years old.

Sixteen percent are under 18.

According to reports from the CDC, 87% of those interviewed said they bought their device off the black market, online or from an illicit seller, not a vape shop. Seventy-seven-percent of those who got sick also said they were smoking a THC product which are not sold at vape shops.

In California THC can only be sold at licensed dispensaries.

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“E-cigarettes, and in particular the flavored products, are erasing years of progress in reducing teens’ use of tobacco and nicotine,” said Supervisor Fletcher.

State and local public health officials are advising people to refrain from vaping, no matter the substance or source, as investigations continue into the cause of the crisis.

“Until more is known about what is causing these cases of severe illness, it is important for people to stop using these products,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer.

The recommendations introduced by Jacob and Fletcher will initially come to the board on Oct. 15. If the board follows up with a final approval, it would take effect in the county’s unincorporated area.

“Big tobacco is again preying on our kids, and we have an obligation to protect our children and public health. While I respect people’s right to personal choices, there are simply too many unknowns about the danger of these products and too much concerning data about illness and deaths linked to these products,” said Fletcher.

Critics pointed out that the ban may have opposite affect and push more people to the black market, which is thought to have supplied most of the bad products and worsen the outbreak. 

The ban would not affect city shops, but business owners feel they would be targeted next. 

According to the state Department of Public Health, teenagers and young adults make up about half of the people hospitalized in California as a result of e-cigarette use. In 2018, one in five high school seniors reported vaping in the past month – almost double the number reported in 2017.