Vaping Lung Damage

A man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine. The U.S. government has refined how it is measuring an outbreak of breathing illnesses in people who vape, now counting only cases that are most closely linked to electronic cigarette use. Health officials on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019 said 380 confirmed cases and probable cases have been reported in 36 states and one U.S. territory. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

A temporary ban on all flavored tobacco products is coming to Long Beach.

After a heated debate among City Council members and dozens of comments from the public, the panel voted unanimously at its Tuesday, Oct. 1, meeting to institute the ban, which includes vapor products and menthol cigarettes, until the city’s Health Department compiles the necessary research to assemble a thorough program to address the public health concerns associated with flavored tobacco.

The primary reasoning for the focus on flavored products was that they tend to target youth.

The decision to halt sales came the same day that L.A. County implemented a similar ban. Other cities, including Burbank, Beverly Hills, San Francisco and Fremont, also have passed similar bans as accounts of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping have grown.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found vaping to be associated with 805 lung injury cases and 12 deaths nationwide.

Parents and vape shop owners alike showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to express their thoughts on the prohibition.

Kim Erkman, a parent of three children in Long Beach, said she was glad to see the city acting on the issue.

“The statistics are alarming to me,” she said. “I am here to support the proposal at hand. However you guys all want to do it, I support it. I don’t care how you word it — I support it.”

Travis Anthony, owner of VaporLand on Long Beach’s east side, had a different take. He said that stricter regulations, like lowering the amount of nicotine allowed in products and requiring age-verification systems whenever a product is sold, would be more effective than a full ban.

“There’s other ways” to address health concerns and prevent kids from getting their hands on the products, he said, “than just making everybody go to the black market.”

Council members also had their disagreements.

City Councilwoman Stacy Mungo, who represents the Fifth District on the east side, said she shared concerns about funneling consumers to the black market, or to nearby cities with no regulations. She said she would prefer to narrow the number of shops that are allowed to sell vaping products and to enact more regulations.

As an example, Mungo said she found on Amazon that she could have a next-day delivery of mango-flavored vape for $9.99. With a complete prohibition in Long Beach, she said, folks will find other avenues to obtain the merchandise.

But Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price, who led the charge on the issue, said she was not willing to compromise in that way.

“I’m not here to control what people buy on Amazon,” she said. “This item is meant to control what people buy in Long Beach.”

While she was sympathetic to how businesses may be impacted, Price said the health concerns win out.

“People are literally dying,” she said. “We have a duty to take a pause and mitigate that.”

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