Senate Health Committee Holds Informational Hearing on Rise in Vaping

On Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee convened an overview hearing to examine the rapid rise in vaping electronic cigarettes, health impacts, and strategies available to reduce vaping utilization. The hearing featured three panels detailing current vaping rates and recent trends, statewide efforts to address vaping products and emerging health effects, and local government policies to decrease access to vaping products.

The first panel featured Dr. Michael Ong of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Chair of the Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee (TEROC). Dr. Ong discussed the unprecedented increase of the use of vaping products, particularly among youth and young adults, over the past several years. Dr. Ong’s presentation included the latest data available detailing California youth utilization of vaping products, as well as research finding that youth who use tobacco products first began with flavored tobacco products.

The second panel of the hearing featured California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Sonia Angell who provided information on the health impacts of vaping and nicotine use, particularly on young and developing brains. Dr. Angell provided a status update on the ongoing E-Cigarette or Vaping Product-Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) cases in California and detailed the role of CDPH and local health departments in investigating and responding to cases. Approximately three to five EVALI cases per week continue to be identified by CDPH, and CDPH is working to standardize monitoring and reporting activities statewide. Dr. Angell also discussed the Newsom Administration’s public awareness campaign and proposed budget investments to discourage vaping use throughout California.

The third panel featured representatives of the Contra Costa County Public Health Department, including Director Dan Peddycord and Health Officer Chris Farnitano. Contra Costa County provided Senators a presentation on its recently enacted county ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco products in the county’s unincorporated areas. Dan Peddycord discussed the health department’s role in limiting tobacco product access, particularly among youth and young adults, and its work with cities within the county to enact similar restrictions. Both Mr. Peddycord and Dr. Farnitano urged the committee to enact a statewide ban on flavored tobacco products to comprehensively and uniformly limit access to the products.

Members of the Senate Health Committee raised questions of the panelists around what has driven the significant increase in youth uptake of vaping products and vaping products’ impact on youth health. Senator Jerry Hill, who attended the hearing as an interested party, inquired about the role of flavored products in reversing the previously declining trend of tobacco use among youth and young adults. Senator Hill has introduced SB 793 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide; all panelists during Wednesday’s hearing expressed support for the measure and CHEAC is an active member of the coalition supporting the proposed ban.

Senate Health Committee Chair Richard Pan in his closing remarks expressed significant concern with the most recent data of youth tobacco use and discussed the proposed flavored tobacco ban as a mechanism to “stop the bleeding” of high rates of youth tobacco use and uptake.

A video recording of Wednesday’s hearing is available here. The hearing’s background paper is available here.