Capitol Alert

California tax collectors to target e-cigarettes in vaping crackdown ordered by Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order Monday requiring stores selling vaping devices to post warnings about the health risks of such products and directing California tax collectors to step up enforcement on the e-cigarette industry.

His action comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s announcement that the federal government would ban flavored e-cigarette products.

The vaping industry has come under national scrutiny after a handful of people have died from a mysterious illness that appears linked to vaping. More than 60 cases of the lung illness have been reported in California, according to the governor’s office. Recent studies have also found that use of e-cigarettes is increasing dramatically among high school students.

Newsom said the targeting of young people prompted him to sign the executive order.

“It’s really unconscionable, folks that are producing those products they sleep at night knowing what they’re doing to destroy the health of a generation,” he told reporters at a Monday news conference. “The magnitude of what we’ve unleashed on the American public is yet to be determined.”

Newsom’s order directs the California Department of Public Health to spend $20 million of cannabis and tobacco tax revenue on a public information campaign about the dangers of vaping intended to build on the state’s existing anti-tobacco campaign.

He also directs the California tax collection department to step up enforcement of existing fees and regulations of electronic cigarettes. Newsom said he wants to “substantially increase” nicotine tax collection on e-cigarettes.

His action comes after several efforts to crack down on the vaping industry died in the Legislature this year amid heavy lobbying by e-cigarette company Juul.

Newsom said he supports banning flavored e-cigarette products, but said he doesn’t have the authority to do so on his own, instead calling for lawmakers to send him a bill to ban the products.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said Newsom’s order doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t ban the products.

“We are clearly disappointed that Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order does not do more to stem the youth e-cigarette epidemic,” the group’s director Jim Knox said in a statement. “Some aspects of the executive order may be useful, but we are concerned that leaving flavored tobacco products on store shelves will allow the tobacco industry to prey on kids.”

Ted Kwong, a spokesman for Juul, said the company agrees with Newsom that there should be more enforcement of counterfeit vaping products. The company says it doesn’t market its products to children.

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Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Before joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and is a graduate of Northwestern University.
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