Counterfeit vaping products targeted by California, as vape-related illnesses, deaths rise nationwide

California is cracking down on fake vaping products, which may play a role in the vaping-related lung damage and deaths seen across the country. (Photo: Getty Images)

California governor Gavin Newsom announced that his state is cracking down on counterfeit vaping products, following 380 reported "confirmed and probable" cases of vaping-related lung damage and seven deaths across the U.S.

While health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), investigate the possible causes of these severe respiratory illnesses, counterfeit substances or contaminants are regarded as the likely suspects by health authorities, according to the Washington Post.

California public health officials say most patients with the vaping-related lung illnesses reported buying the products from pop-up shops or other illegal sellers, which are “a pipeline for counterfeit products,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

On Monday, Newsom signed an executive order instructing the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration to develop recommendations to remove illegal or counterfeit vaping products from stores. The order also directs the Department of Public Health to launch a $20 million digital and social media vaping awareness campaign “to educate youth, young adults and parents about the health risks of vaping nicotine and cannabis products.” The department will create warning signs featuring the health risks of vaping wherever the products are sold and on product advertisements.

On the same day of the announcement, Newsom signed SB 39 by California Senator Jerry Hill, which will impose stricter age verification requirements for tobacco products sold online or by mail.

In a Sept. 16 tweet, the Office of the Governor of California wrote that California is taking a “hard pass” on vaping.

“As a state, we can no longer stand by as a new generation falls victim to big tobacco, with vaping products that directly target our children,” California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary, Mark Ghaly, MD, said in the statement.

San Francisco, where Newsom served as mayor for seven years before he was elected to governor of California, is the first major city to ban e-cigarettes. “The fact is, they should be banned,” Newsom told the New York Times. “I would like to see that bill on my desk and I would like to sign a bill to eliminate the legal use of flavored e-cigarettes.”

Newsom added: “As a parent, I understand the anxiety caused by the deceptive marketing tactics and flavored options designed to target our kids. With mysterious lung illnesses and deaths on the rise, we have to educate our kids and do everything we can to tackle this crisis.”

The Trump administration announced last week that it planned to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, as other states such as New York and Michigan enact their own regulations.

In the meantime, the CDC and the FDA are urging people to stop using nicotine and cannabis vaping products.

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