SAN DIEGO — The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to impose a one-year ban on the sale and distribution of all electronic smoking devices within unincorporated areas of San Diego County.
Along with the ban on devices, the county will also prohibit the sale and distribution of all flavored products for smoking, prohibit smoking in outdoor dining patio areas and establish a buffer zone outside of outdoor dining patio areas.
The new policy will not apply to the tobacco used in hookahs. The county's chief administration officer will return to the board within 60 days with more specifics on enacting the ban, along with a tobacco retail licensing program and targeted vaping public health awareness campaign.
"Right now, we don't know enough about dangers of chemicals in these devices” said Nathan Fletcher.
The meeting was well-attended by community members with over 70 people signing up to talk during public comment period.
The board says one issue is access to the devices. People are buying them online or from non-licensed shops.
Some business owners told the supervisors that they worry a new ban could hurt their business, and ultimately, the livelihood of their employees.
James Mitchell, a vape shop owner, says he is open to reasonable regulations.
“We do not sell any THC products whatsoever," said Mitchell.
Supervisors Greg Cox, Nathan Fletcher and Dianne Jacob voted in favor of the ban, while their colleagues Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar were opposed.
Desmond called the decision an example of "government overreach" in a press release.
"I want to keep our community safe, but this is an overreach by the government that doesn’t address the actual issue," said Desmond in a press release.
Imperial Beach, San Marcos and El Cajon are also discussing whether or not to ban the devices.
According to the county, there have been 19 confirmed deaths and more than 1,080 confirmed and probable vaping-associated pulmonary injury cases nationally. In San Diego County, there have been 22 confirmed and probable VAPI cases reported among county residents.
Those opposed, however, said it was black-market tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products that were the biggest problem, and that vaping has helped many people quit smoking regular tobacco cigarettes. Some opponents said their businesses would be seriously harmed by such a ban.