by Maria Medina

SAN MATEO (KPIX) — A half-dozen state legislators led by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, announced Thursday a proposal to ban store and vending machine sales of flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco products.

“We’ve seen an unprecedented epidemic proportion and increase in smoking of e-cigarettes and tobacco products of high school students and middle school students,” said Hill. “I believe it’s absolutely targeted marketing for young people.”

The issue has already been tackled by cities and counties and school districts. This past summer, San Francisco voters approved a measure to ban flavored tobacco products. Last month, Fremont school district leaders held a meeting with parents about the growing problem of vaping in schools and urged lawmakers to protect youth from nicotine.

Ginger Watts began smoking menthol cigarettes when she was 15-years-old, a habit she picked up from her father.

“I just thought it was kind of a cool thing to do,” Watts said. “My father had smoked and I always enjoyed the smell of the smoke so that’s how I started.”

Back then the only flavored tobacco was menthol. Today flavored tobacco products come in a wide variety, from cotton candy to cinnamon roll.

“I think that kids are definitely attracted to the flavors,” Watts said.

Now tobacco-free, Watts says she was able to quit after fifteen years but she worries about osteoporosis as a side effect of smoking for so long.

If the bill passes, online, telephone and mail sales would still be allowed if the buyer is able to verify he or she is 21 years old or older.

“They ought to be ashamed of themselves if what they’re doing is trying to addict the next generation of Californians or Americans for that matter they should be ashamed of themselves,” Hill said.

KPIX 5 called dozens of smoke shops but no one wanted to add to the story.

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