Flavor Ban, Industry News

Santa Cruz County to ban flavored tobacco, e-cigarettes

Growing use of vaporizers among teens prompts push to forbid retail sales.


By Nicholas Ibarra | Santa Cruz Sentinel

SANTA CRUZ — Flavored tobacco and electronic cigarettes are set to be banned in both the city of Santa Cruz and the unincorporated county starting in 2020.

Following in the footsteps of the citywide ban on flavored tobacco products approved in November, Santa Cruz County is moving forward with its own ordinance that extends the ban into the unincorporated county.

The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ordinance on May 21. It bans the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges and liquids along with all other flavored tobacco products, such as menthol cigarettes, cigarillos and chewing tobacco. If adopted June 11, the ordinance will take effect Jan. 1 2020.

An estimated 89 tobacco retailers in the unincorporated county stand to be affected by the ban, according to a staff report.

Behind the push to ban flavored tobacco in jurisdictions across California is data showing a growing number of middle and high school students are using e-cigarettes — even as the number of students smoking conventional cigarettes continues to fall.

In 2018, 1 in 5 high school students reported smoking an e-cigarette in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All told, 3.6 million middle and high school students reported vaping that year — an increase of 1.5 million from 2017.

The rate of e-cigarette use among students in Santa Cruz County is less clear. But Tara Leonard, a health educator with the county’s Tobacco Education and Prevention program, said anecdotal reports suggest a similar trend.

“We know from talking to administrators, teachers and parents that they are seeing an alarming increase in the use of these products,” Leonard said.

The county ban is supported by the American Lung Association of California and a number of area health professionals, nonprofits advocacy groups and parents.

Stacey Kyle, a mother of two in Live Oak, wrote in a letter of support that she has been alarmed to see the growing popularity of flavored tobacco products, particularly vaporizers.

“These products are advertised on television, in magazines and through social media in ways that once again make smoking appear glamorous and ‘safe’ to youth,” Kyle wrote.

The ban is opposed by the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. And some Santa Cruz County retailers have raised their own concerns about how the ban will impact their business.

Caine McClelland, owner of Twin Lakes vaporizer-retailer Santa Cruz Vapors, said he views the ban as an example of government overreach, adding that he believes it will make it more challenging for cigarette smokers to transition to a less harmful alternative.

“It’s doing a great disservice to this community,” McClelland said. “These are adult products for ages 21 and up. They are for the convert smoker. They are not for children.”

McClelland acknowledged youth do get their hands on the vaporizers, as, he said, they do with other adult-only products such as alcohol and cannabis. “That’s a problem that needs to be addressed at home, and it’s definitely an overreach of the county to do so.”

Santa Cruz County joins a growing list of dozens of California jurisdictions to take similar steps to ban or flavored tobacco products, including Santa Clara County, San Francisco and Sacramento, according to a list compiled by the American Lung Association. Capitola is expected to consider a similar ban in June, according to Leon

A proposal to take a flavored tobacco ban statewide, SB 38, was withdrawn by its author Thursday in the face of hostile amendments and lobbying from the tobacco industry.

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