Vape shop regs clamp down

San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Jan. 14 to adopt new restrictions on the sale and distribution of flavored smoking products and electronic smoking devices, and prohibited smoking in outdoor dining spaces, in San Diego’s unincorporated areas.

According to County Communications Specialist José Alvarez, the restrictions were proposed as a response to recent nationwide vaping-related lung injuries and will be in effect for one year, or until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presents a report on vaping illness that indicates the risks have been properly assessed.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob explained in an email that the one-year ban was specifically chosen to buy time for health experts to assemble research on what might be causing vaping-related illnesses.

“We’re taking two commonsense steps to deal with this public health crisis: a ban on the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products in the unincorporated area, along with a one-year moratorium on the sale and distribution of electronic cigarette devices. We included the one-year window because health experts are still trying to definitely nail down all the factors causing these illnesses. They need time to get to the bottom of this crisis and, with lives on the line, it’s critical we take action now. Waiting is not an option,” Jacob said.

While business owners establish ways to turn a profit without the banned products, the county’s Department of Health and Human Services is developing a tobacco retail licensing program to enforce compliance with ordinance changes. That program will be brought for board consideration later this spring.

According to the county, that program will ensure shops are not selling to minors and all retail entities are complying with other state and local laws.

The new restrictions must still pass a second reading scheduled for Feb. 28. If approved, they will be in effect and enforcement will begin July 1.