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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 30th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 13 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 13

Local organizations push for tobacco flavor ban despite state failure

By Kasey Bubnash

A state bill that would have banned flavored tobacco products entirely in California recently stalled out, but that’s not stopping local tobacco prevention advocates from pushing for similar ordinances on the Central Coast.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) announced on May 23 plans to withdraw Senate Bill 38, a bill that would have prohibited the sale of flavored tobacco products, like the fruit- and candy-flavored juices sold with e-cigarettes that many blame for the recent boom in e-cigarette use among U.S. teens. 

Though Hill said in a press release that his initial bill was an effort to “combat the epidemic use of flavored tobacco products by youth,” major organizations, including the American Lung and American Heart associations, withdrew support after the bill was amended to exempt hookah tobacco and products patented before 2000 from the ban. 

Shantal Hover-Jones, who works in the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention Program, said those amendments would have made the ban significantly less effective. E-cigarette and vape companies could have rebranded their products as electronic hookahs to get them back on shelves, and Hover-Jones said a number of tobacco products currently on the market were patented before 2000. 


ELECTRONIC NICOTINE
A community member holds a poster displaying several vape pens, e-cigarettes, and e-juices that were confiscated from students at high schools in the Santa Maria Valley.
FILE PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH

“It would have been a miracle if it passed at the state level,” Hover-Jones said, adding that ordinances like Senate Bill 38 are always heavily targeted by tobacco industry lobbyists, who make it difficult to pass restrictions on tobacco products. 

That isn’t quite the case on the county and city levels, she said. 

“We really need to be a model and a leader in this,” Hover-Jones said, “and our cities are poised to do that.”

With the help of organizations like Fighting Back: Santa Maria Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing substance abuse and violence in the area, the county Public Health Department has been working for months to educate community members on the risks associated with e-cigarettes and vapes and reduce use among local teens. 

The number of U.S. high school students who reported e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Numbers among middle school students rose by 48 percent. Only 1.5 percent of high school and 0.6 percent of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes in the 2011 survey.

Santa Barbara County is seeing a similar trend, and in response, the county Public Health Department is pushing city officials to enact flavor bans and other restrictions on electronic tobacco products. 

Fighting Back gave a presentation on e-cigarettes and teen vaping at a Santa Maria City Council meeting in December 2018, where the organization called on City Council to develop and pass a flavor ban—although customers could easily go to a neighboring town without a ban to purchase flavors—or a tobacco retail licensing ordinance, which would require retailers hoping to sell tobacco and nicotine products to apply and pay for a license. 

Edwin Weaver, executive director of Fighting Back, said his organization will continue pushing for these ordinances locally regardless of what is happening on the state and federal levels. While Weaver said he and other tobacco prevention specialists would love to see a state ban on flavored tobacco products, the Legislature is “too bogged down.”

“I really think it’s up to our local elected officials to decide what’s best for our kids,” he said. 




Weekly Poll
How should Lompoc respond to the lawsuit claiming its ordinance restricting where registered sex offenders can live is unconstitutional?

The city should fight the lawsuit in court.
The city needs to repeal the ordinance and settle the lawsuit.
Most cities in California have already repealed similar ordinances.
Keep the ordinance. Residents need it for public safety.

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