Tuesday, November 19, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 37

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on July 10th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 19 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 19

Cunningham tables e-cig marketing bill for stricter anti-vaping legislation

By Kasey Bubnash

It’s been several months since Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) introduced a bill in December 2018 that aimed to deter e-cigarette use among minors by prohibiting “deceptive e-cigarette marketing” geared toward children. That bill has since been tabled, and now Cunningham is including its provisions in a more robust and stringent anti-vaping bill. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has criticized the e-cigarette industry for specifically marketing to teens, using brightly colored boxes reminiscent of kid-friendly foods, like candy and cereal boxes.

On July 2, Cunningham announced the introduction of Assembly Bill 1639, which includes strict steps that make it more difficult for teens and children to get their hands on electronic tobacco and nicotine products. 

“The Federal Food and Drug Administration has called the rise in teen vaping an epidemic,” Cunningham said in a press release. “Like epidemics of the past, this one deserves a robust and focused public policy response. I believe this bill will help curb the rise of teenage vaping and be positive for public health.”

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

In the press release, Cunningham said he found those statistics “hard to believe,” until he heard first-hand stories from his own two children about their classmates using e-cigarette and vaping products. 

E-cigarette and e-juice manufacturing companies have been widely criticized for creating nicotine products and flavors that clearly appeal to minors. While it’s illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to buy these products, Cunningham said in a previous interview with the Sun that many companies package them in brightly colored boxes reminiscent of kid-friendly foods, such as candy, cereal, and fruit juice. The wide variety of e-juice flavors—ranging from mango and cotton candy, to blueberry jam and “unicorn poop”—are also enticing to kids, Cunningham said. 

And because e-cigarettes are still relatively new to the market and contain nicotine but not tobacco, e-cig manufacturers are allowed to advertise on radio, television, and through social media platforms. Many of those ads overtly target teens, Cunningham said. 

Like Cunningham’s bill from 2018, Assembly Bill 1639 would ban e-cigarette and e-juice marketing toward children and make it illegal for manufacturers to package products in a way that’s appealing to youth. This bill, however, would also ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes at non-vape or tobacco shops, increase penalties for selling or providing minors with tobacco products, require tobacco retailers to use age verification technology, and ban minors from entering tobacco and vaping stores.

The bill includes restrictions that a number of local, state, and national legislators have considered in the past several months. 

The Santa Maria City Council considered similar policy changes at a meeting on Dec. 4, 2018, where Fighting Back: Santa Maria Valley officials called on the council to develop and pass a citywide flavor ban or a tobacco retail licensing ordinance, which would require retailers hoping to sell tobacco and nicotine products to apply and pay for a license. 

Nothing has come of that yet, and in May of this year, a state bill that would have banned flavored tobacco products entirely in California stalled out after its author, Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), announced plans to withdraw the legislation

Kasey Bubnash

Weekly Poll
Should school districts invest more into vocational and career technical programs?

Yes. Students need to get on a career path as soon as possible.
No. It's more important for students to learn study skills than specific disciplines.
No. District should save money by partnering with businesses to offer more internships.
Yes, but only if these programs also count for college credit.

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