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Board to consider adding e-cigarettes to current tobacco prevention and control

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ordinances in unincorporated Santa Clara County to help protect youth

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 The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved (5-0) adding e-cigarettes to the County’s no-smoking policies for all facilities owned and operated, or leased, by the County, including the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and the County’s health clinics, effective immediately.   In May, the Board will consider adding e-cigarette regulation to the County’s tobacco prevention and control ordinances for unincorporated Santa Clara County, including the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance, which regulates the sale of tobacco products in unincorporated Santa Clara County.

The Board’s action restricts e-cigarette use by prohibiting use within 30-feet of County-owned and -operated properties, and County-leased properties, and prohibiting use of e-cigarettes at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s smoke-free campus, including all current and future Valley Health Centers.

The County of Santa Clara adopted comprehensive smoking pollution control and prevention measures in 2010, including, the Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-625.5), the Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-625.6) and the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-300.832).  Together, these measures made Santa Clara County a leader in the nation in preventing youth tobacco use and protecting residents from secondhand smoke. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans who had ever used e-cigarettes quadrupled from 2009 to 2010. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stated that e-cigarettes can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead them to try other tobacco products.

“Santa Clara County has been a national leader in blocking tobacco sales to minors.  The increased popularity of e-cigarettes among youth puts the work we’ve done to protect our community at risk,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who brought the County’s tobacco ordinances to the Board of Supervisors, and is Chair of the Board’s Health and Hospital Committee.The Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance requires all retailers in the unincorporated areas of the County to obtain and maintain an annual permit to sell tobacco products. The ordinance also restricts future retailers from operating in areas located within 1,000 feet of a school or 500 feet of an existing retailer. “Some very unscrupulous people are using marketing measures to hook teens on flavored e-cigarettes without these youth knowing the health consequences,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Chair of the Board’s Children Seniors, Families Committee.

Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the renormalization of smoking through the use of e-cigarettes. Youth are now witnessing smoking behaviors in public spaces that have been smoke-free for most, if not all, of their lives. Youth are also being exposed to e-cigarette advertising on television, something that has been prohibited for decades for traditional tobacco products. Youth are rapidly using e-cigarettes, which come in a variety of flavors, including cherry, grape and chocolate flavors, which cigarette companies have been prohibited from using in traditional cigarettes since 2009.

“The pace of marketing and sales of e-cigarettes has wildly outpaced evidence regarding their safety,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “We do know that nicotine is highly addictive, and harmful to the brain development of adolescents. E-cigarettes are completely unregulated products and until more is known about the long term health risks of e-cigarettes and second hand vapor, we will always err on the side of caution to protect children, youth, and the public health.”E-cigarettes may also be added in May to the County’s Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance, which protects non-smokers from secondhand smoke exposure while in public.  Under the measure, smoking is banned at the County Fairgrounds and at all County parks.  Smoking is prohibited in, and within 30 feet of, any outdoor service area, such as a ticket line or the outdoor portion of a restaurant, in the unincorporated areas. Additionally, motels and hotels in unincorporated areas are entirely smoke-free facilities.

Prior to May, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department will contact and inform restaurants, businesses, tobacco-retailers, and other stakeholders about its proposals for the regulation of e-cigarettes.


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