Santa Cruz County to ban flavored tobacco, e-cigarettes

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.


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