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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 9:09 pm | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

California Gets Tough on Tobacco, E-Cigarettes with Series of Aggressive New Laws

Vaping industry fuming over reclassification of its products as tobacco, but substance abuse prevention groups cheer

Niko Iverson, an employee of Cal State Vape in Santa Maria, says e-cigarettes helped him quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Under a new state law, vaping devices will be regulated like traditional tobacco products. Click to view larger
Niko Iverson, an employee of Cal State Vape in Santa Maria, says e-cigarettes helped him quit smoking tobacco cigarettes. Under a new state law, vaping devices will be regulated like traditional tobacco products. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

California’s tough new tobacco regulations — along with stricter federal oversight — mean big changes are coming for smokers and users of increasingly popular e-cigarettes.

One of the biggest is the new state law that raises California’s minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 from 18.

Those who work to keep youths free from substance abuse welcome the new measures while tobacco and vaping supporters have criticized the restrictions, calling on e-cigarette users to protest to legislators in Sacramento.

Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law five bills that are expected to create the toughest new tobacco environment in California in decades.

In addition to the minimum age requirement, which takes effect June 9, electronic cigarettes are now defined as tobacco products and will be regulated as such, and e-cigarette devices and liquids must be sold in child-resistant packaging.

The state’s tobacco-free school laws will now cover all school property at all times, smoke-free workplace laws will be extended to the self-employed who bring clients to their offices, and a number of workplace exemptions have been eliminated.

Licensing fees are going up, and the state must conduct random, on-site sting operations, with retailers facing penalties of $400 to $600 for the first violation.

While applauding the new laws, Ed Stonefelt, president and chief executive officer of the Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, said appropriate enforcement is key.

“If there is oversight on the retail practices, then the law works,” he told Noozhawk. “If people look the other way, then the law doesn’t have much teeth to it.”

CADA is the administrative agency for Santa Barbara Fighting Back, a collaborative that plans and implements community-wide initiatives to tackle problems related to alcohol and substance abuse on the South Coast.

“The responsible oversight is what will make that law effective,” Stonefelt added. “We’re very supportive of that law ... We hope it’s enforced so that we do as much as possible, keep underage people from having access to cigarettes, particularly e-cigarettes.”

Edwin Weaver, executive director of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, agreed.

“I am very proud of our state leaders taking on big tobacco and big vape, to say that we are not done with this battle, we are in this fight to stop them from taking advantage of our kids,” he said.

Edwin Weaver, executive director of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, applauds new restrictions on electronic cigarettes. “We have protections at work regarding the air we breathe and all of our food is regulated,” he says. “I am very happy that now someone will hold the makers of these products accountable.” Click to view larger
Edwin Weaver, executive director of Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley, applauds new restrictions on electronic cigarettes. “We have protections at work regarding the air we breathe and all of our food is regulated,” he says. “I am very happy that now someone will hold the makers of these products accountable.” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

Vaping industry associations insist the laws are unfairly targeting their products, which they say should not be treated the same as tobacco.

“California took a step backward by reclassifying vapor products as tobacco,” according to the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, the largest trade association representing and managing the interests of the vapor industry.

“Stigmatizing vapor products, which contain no tobacco and treating them the same as combustible tobacco while actively seeking to economically penalize smokers attempting to switch is counterproductive to public health.”

The flurry of new tobacco regulations isn’t confined to the state level. In Washington, the Food and Drug Administration has released its long-awaited ruling declaring that tobacco products fall under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

The ruling extends the FDA’s authority to include all electronic nicotine delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes and vape pens), all cigars, hookah (waterpipe) tobacco, pipe tobacco and nicotine gels, among others.

The new federal rules, which take effect Aug. 8, would prohibit sales to anyone under age 18 both in person and online.

The rule also will require manufacturers of the newly regulated products to show they meet applicable public health standards, allowing the FDA to evaluate ingredients and how they are made. The law covers all devices new to the market since 2007, which vaping industry leaders say includes — essentially — all products.

The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, another vaping industry organization, condemned the regulations, contending they would ban 99.9 percent of the vapor products currently on the market.

“CASAA is justifiably outraged that the FDA has opted to squander a monumental opportunity to greatly improve the health and well-being of the public,” the association said, adding that the action “imposes an insurmountable burden to apply for and meet impossible and largely irrelevant standards.”

Several vaping industry organizations have united to fight the new regulations, saying they harm a multibillion-dollar industry made up primarily of small businesses.

But CADA and other organizations fighting substance abuse contend vaping products are becoming delivery devices for more than just tobacco and nicotine.

“I think the danger out there is you can vape any kind of synthetic drug that you want,” Stonefelt said.

The products appear to be targeted at kids, with fun flavors, he said.

“It’s irresponsible for retailers to have them in areas where they’re easily accessible by young people,” Stonefelt said.

Electronic cigarettes are touted as a tool for weaning cigarette smokers off tobacco, but others doubt how successful they are since people instead take up the habit of vaping.

Vaping devices have evolved over the years, with many users creating their own e-liquids to vape. Critics counter that e-juice contains chemicals known to cause cancer.

“When I look around and see the amount of people who vape, without anyone testing as to what they are breathing into their lungs, it is shocking,” Weaver said.

“We have protections at work regarding the air we breathe and all of our food is regulated. I am very happy that now someone will hold the makers of these products accountable.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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