MARTINEZ –- The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved several new regulations to protect youth from tobacco marketing, including prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes, flavored vaping solutions and other flavored tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, and libraries in unincorporated parts of the county.
“Flavored tobacco products are most attractive to youth and serve as a gateway to a lifetime of addiction to tobacco,” said Dan Peddycord, Director of Public Health for Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS). “Ninety percent of adult smokers begin smoking as youth, and that’s at the heart of this issue. We’re trying to protect our youth from a lifetime addiction to tobacco products.”
More than 80 percent of stores licensed to sell tobacco that are located near schools in Contra Costa County carry flavored products such as “watermelon” or “tropical blast” cigarillos or little cigars. Many of these products cost less than $1, making them attractive and affordable for youth.
The new regulations also prohibit the sale of flavored “e-liquids” for vaping through electronic smoking devices, which also come in candy and fruit flavors that appeal to new, young smokers. A recent UC San Francisco study showed that many teens who vape would not have started smoking if only traditional tobacco products were available.
Other research shows that teens who vape are four times more likely to begin smoking cigarettes a year later than those who do not.
Members of the county’s Tobacco Prevention Coalition and numerous community-based organizations applauded the board’s vote.
“Peak age for experimenting with tobacco is 11-13, not 18 and not 21. We’re talking about kids who like candy and who are very susceptible to advertising,” said Mary Jaccodine, co-chair of the Contra Costa Tobacco Prevention Coalition. “We already ban flavors in cigarettes and small packs of cigarettes, so it’s not a big leap to ban a 99-cent pack of strawberry or grape cigars.”
Other provisions adopted at Tuesday’s board meeting include no-sales of tobacco products in pharmacies, and a requirement prohibiting the sale of any cigarillos and little cigars in packs smaller than 10.
Additionally, no new tobacco retailer licenses will be granted to businesses located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds or libraries, or within 500 feet of another business that sells tobacco.
Most of the new regulations take effect on August 17, 2017. Education and outreach will be conducted with retailers over the next few months, and retailers are expected to be fully compliant with the no-sale of tobacco products provision no later than January 1, 2018.
Contra Costa joins many other Bay Area cities and counties to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products including Santa Clara and Yolo Counties, and the cities of El Cerrito, Novato, Los Gatos, San Francisco, and Oakland.