Photo to accompany Contra Costa vaping ban story. (Photo by Lindsay Fox/Flickr)

Unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County are no longer permitted to sell vaping products that have not been reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, cannabis vaping products or flavored tobacco products.

This comes after a unanimous vote by the Board of Supervisors this month in a meeting that saw substantial public turnout and comment from dozens of students from area high schools.

“Students, I appreciate you being here, I know you’re disappointed to be missing class,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen, which got some laughter from the crowd.

“This is a health crisis; there are potentially fatal consequences,” Andersen said. “We are seeing people die and I would much prefer to have us err on the side of protecting the public.”

The move comes amid a mysterious nationwide epidemic of respiratory illnesses linked to vaping that has sickened more than 2,000 people and led to roughly 40 deaths, according to county staff.

The board expressed a heightened level of concern for the risks vaping poses for young people, as did many in the audience.

“We know that there are 7,000 flavors on the market, and that 80 percent of youth are using flavors,” said Erica Costa, advocacy director for the American Lung Association in Sacramento.

“Flavors have been the number one tool for the tobacco industry in  hooking new users,” said Blythe Young, from the American Heart Association, echoing Costa’s argument.

Young said that tactic has been particularly effective among minors and communities of color.

Bryan Miller, a Lafayette resident and a concerned parent, said his 16-year-old daughter recently told him that 90 percent of the kids in her peer group vape, and two-thirds of her friends are addicted.

That may be higher than the national average, however. The National Youth Tobacco Survey recently found that one in four high school students are vaping, according to county staff.

There was a small group of advocates who asked the board to consider moving forward with the ban on selling tobacco vaping products, but to leave cannabis vaping products out of the ordinance.

Laurie Light of Daytrip, which produces cannabis-infused beverages, said that since cannabis vaping products are lab-tested before they go to market in accordance with state law, they are safe for public consumption and inaccessible to minors through legal sales.

“The problem of teens vaping in school is something we need to deal with, but it’s not the problem we are dealing with today,” Light said. The board declined to accommodate that request, however.

As of Nov. 18, sale of all tobacco and cannabis vaping products as well as flavored tobacco products is prohibited in unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County. The ordinance does not affect regulations in incorporated areas of the county’s nearly 20 cities, however.