Following the infamous cases of vaping-related illnesses which have popped up across the US, last September the State of California announced a $20m campaign aimed at raising awareness about the “dangers of vaping”.
A few months before, San Francisco’s supervisors had unanimously approved an e-cig ban amid concerns over youth vaping. In response to this action, public health experts had voiced their concerns about the fact that other cities and counties would follow SF’s example and this could spell disaster for public health.
“The San Francisco City Attorney argued that e-cigarettes are ‘a product that shouldn’t even be on the market’. So let’s get his reasoning straight. He is saying that e-cigarettes shouldn’t even be on the market, but cigarettes should! This is contrary to every public health principle in the book,” said public health expert Dr. Michael Siegel.
And in fact this was the case. Several cities across the state set in place varying types of bans, and now many are also considering implementing fines. One such city is Palo Alto and Councilman Greg Tanaka said the measure would be a cutting-edge approach necessitated by the increase in vaping.
Attending an educational program instead of paying a fine
At least four California cities and Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago, have passed or are considering imposing fines for minors. Most of these laws call for noncriminal administrative fines ranging from $100 to $500, and allow the teens to attend a tobacco educational or diversion program instead of paying the fine.
“It really is about education and hopefully convince them that not using these products is better for them,” said Wahid Kazem, the public information officer of Santa Clara, where such a measure is in place. “There really is no significant hammer behind it. They meet with someone here that educates them on the impact of using tobacco products.”
Retailers should be held accountable for selling to minors
However anti-tobacco advocates are generally critical of policies penalizing minors for vaping, with some pointing out that vaping should be considered as a safer alternative and others saying the responsibility to keep the addictive products out of kids’ hands should fall on sellers.
“We think policies that would re-criminalize the possession of tobacco for minors are a mistake,” said Tim Gibbs of the Cancer Action Network, the lobbying arm of the American Cancer Society. “We think the accountability needs to be with companies … whose products essentially caused this e-cigarette epidemic among youths. Accountability should be with retailers and shouldn’t be placed at the foot of children.”
Read Further: SF Chronicle