Rural Leaders Advised on Vaping Danger

The possible health risks related to electronic cigarette use was a topic of concern when representatives from 34 rural California counties gathered last week for their association’s annual conference.

Robert Oldham, Placer County Public Health Director, addressed the annual gathering Thursday of the Rural County Representatives of California, a consortium of leaders from 34 rural counties throughout the state.

Oldham, a physician, went over the capabilities and limits of local public health efforts to curb the use of e-cigarette vaping and outlined potential public health strategies for rural counties.

In March, Placer County north of Sacramento banned e-cigarette use, also known as vaping, from all public buildings and county-owned vehicles.

Oldham called it a case study in local public health efforts. “There have been dramatic reductions in smoking over the last three decades,” Oldham said in his presentation but, he said, “there have been changes in the social norms surrounding smoking.”

That means e-cigarette use. While tobacco use in general has dropped, vaping has boomed in California, he said.

E-cigarette companies are aggressively marketing their products to younger smokers, he said, including using social media such as Twitter, Vine and Instagram to get the vaping message out. For instance, he said, 90% of the tweets related to e-cigarettes are commercial, and of those, 94% contain links to products.

“Efforts to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco were not successful this legislative session,” Oldham said, referring to bills introduced by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove). Leno’s bill originally passed the Senate but was gutted in the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization. Leno re-introduced the proposal in a new bill in the special legislative session on health. That bill, though, was never taken up on the Assembly floor; legislative leaders said they ran out of time to hear it. Since it is a special session bill, it could still come up for a vote when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Oldham said counties and local jurisdictions could change any of their current smoke-free ordinances to include e-cigarettes, or they could pass ordinances to establish smoke-free campuses or even call a halt to creating new vaping shops.

“E-cigarettes can be included [in traditional cigarette regulations],” Oldham said. “That allows a mechanism to enforce prohibition on sales to minors.”

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