San Anselmo has joined the fight against underage tobacco use, voting to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products popular among youths.
The San Anselmo Town Council voted 3-1 to approve the new tobacco regulations Tuesday. Councilman Ford Greene was absent, and Mayor Matt Brown dissented, saying he could not support a prohibition of a product that adults 21 and over are legally allowed to purchase.
“We are saying you cannot buy these products in our community because we know best, and I have a problem with that,” Brown said.
Brown said it was “elitist for us to tell others what they should and shouldn’t do in the name of their own health,” calling the regulation “discrimination” and “that’s kind of a dangerous, scary precedent.”
The ordinance also creates a retailer licensing program that requires tobacco purveyors to acquire a city-issued license to sell non-flavored products. At $50, the licenses would require annual renewal.
Councilman John Wright requested that the regulations take effect in January 2020 so that the new San Anselmo rules would roll out at the same time as Corte Madera and Larkspur, which recently approved a similar ban. The county, Fairfax and Sausalito have already imposed bans.
The state might be next. Sen. Mike McGuire, whose district includes Marin, recently joined other legislators in introducing a bill to ban flavored tobacco sales in retail stores and vending machines. SB 38 was approved in the Senate Health committee Wednesday and is headed next to the Appropriations Committee.
Experts say flavored tobacco products target children and mask the harsh effects of smoking, leading to the potential for increased nicotine addiction rates. The risk has been more recently heightened through the popularity of vaporizer and e-cigarettes, which often come in sleek, discreet packaging with fruity and candy-like flavors.
“Vaping has been called an epidemic, and it’s not an overstatement,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County public health officer.
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