A Tracy councilwoman and the San Joaquin County district attorney have both announced plans to take up the fight against electronic cigarettes.
Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom, speaking at the Sept. 17 City Council meeting, called on the city government to “take a proactive approach” and look into banning the sale of e-cigarettes and cartridges in Tracy.
She said she had talked with school board members, administrators and educators about the growing prevalence of vaping among young adults and teenagers, as reported in the Sept. 13 Tracy Press.
Earlier in the council meeting, youths from the county Stop Smoking Tobacco Outreach Prevention Program also spoke about the vaping trend.
“Kids are literally vaping in class. Teachers try to turn around — the vape disappears so fast, it’s hard for them to figure out where it’s coming from,” Ransom said. “They’ve had suspensions, expulsions, and the reality is, the kids are talking really soft tonight, but if you heard any of what they were saying, they were talking about how young people are targeted.”
She spoke about a lack of regulation of the contents of e-cigarette fluids, the way flavored e-cigarettes appeal to young palates, and the risks of vaping.
“The more we're are learning about the dangers of the chemicals in vaping and learning what we don’t know may be a lot more harmful to our young people, you’re starting to see that communities are stepping up, and I would like to ask that Tracy step up and look at a ban on e-cigarettes and cartridges in the city of Tracy,” Ransom said.
Her request was seconded by Councilman Dan Arriola, and the item will be considered at a future council meeting.
On Sept. 26, District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced an investigation into the e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs Inc., based in San Francisco.
“They are no different than the drug dealer on the corner. Because he or she, just like Juul, sells addiction,” she said. “The business plan is addiction.”
She accused the company of violations of the state Business and Professions Code — specifically, unfair business practices and providing false and misleading information that results in harm, which can carry both civil and criminal penalties.
“The reason why we’re focusing today on Juul is, one, they are the largest in the industry, and, two, for their knowingly false misrepresentation of what their product is,” she said. “Originally, the face of Juul was intended to be a product, was a rehabilitative product, one in which people could transition off big tobacco or traditional cigarettes or combustible cigarettes into a safer product.”
Juul Labs, established as an independent company in 2017, has a market share of more than 70%.
“They are just churning money and money and money while our kids are getting addicted and suffering the harmful consequences, and then the communities are asked to pick it up, to pick them up and heal them and pick up the cost for the journey to healthy and well life,” Verber Salazar said.
She said that e-cigarette users suffer from side effects that include lung disease, heart problems, anxiety and impulsiveness.
“Here in San Joaquin County, our job is public safety, and if you think you can come into this county and harm our youth and you think we’re not going to fight you back, you’re wrong,” she said. “Today we fight, and we’re asking every other county in the state to fight with us. And we’re asking the state to take a stand, a real stand, one that bans this destructive product.”
Juul Labs released a statement Aug. 29 about new measures the company was taking to “reduce youth access to, and use of, all vapor products,” including its own.
In addition to the investigation by Verber Salazar’s office, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California had launched a criminal investigation into Juul. The focus of that probe was not immediately known.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed 12 deaths nationwide linked to vaping or e-cigarettes as of Sept. 24. National news reports on Thursday raised that total to 17 after recent deaths in Virginia, New Jersey and Alabama.
The CDC also reported 805 confirmed and probable lung injury cases due to e-cigarettes in 46 states as of last week. California is among the hardest-hit states.