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County of Santa Clara Passes Landmark Tobacco Ordinances

Measures to Prevent Youth Smoking and Protect Against Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among the Most Comprehensive in the Nation

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors passed three new ordinances for tobacco control that will require licensing of tobacco retailers, ban smoking inside multi-unit residences, and strengthen other protections against secondhand smoke. The comprehensive measures make Santa Clara County one of the most aggressive jurisdictions in the nation in preventing youth tobacco use and protecting residents from secondhand smoke.

“The residents of this county deserve strong policies to safeguard their health,” said President Ken Yeager, who brought the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. “These ordinances make Santa Clara County a national leader in blocking tobacco sales to minors and protecting residents from secondhand smoke.”

The Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-625.5) and the Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-625.6) will come back to the Board for a second reading and final approval on Nov. 9. The Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-300.832) will come back to the Board for its second reading and final approval on Nov. 23, which will enable staff to conduct additional outreach to retailers in the unincorporated areas.

“Research clearly shows that strong retail licensing can reduce youth access to tobacco, but before we implement the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance we need to conduct further outreach to local retailers who will be affected by the new ordinance,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese.

Santa Clara County’s Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance would require all retailers in the unincorporated areas of the County to obtain and maintain an annual permit to sell tobacco products. Retailers would pay a one-time application fee and an annual fee that would go toward administration and enforcement of the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance.

The Board directed staff to look into covering the application fee of $340 for existing, lawfully operating tobacco retailers using funds from the $7 million that the Public Health Department received from a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All tobacco retailers, new and existing, will be subject to the $425 annual permit fee.

The ordinance will also ban any new retail outlets in the unincorporated areas of the County from selling tobacco if they operate a pharmacy or are located within 1,000 feet of a school or within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer.

Failure of tobacco retailers to prevent tobacco sales to minors presents a threat to the health and safety of the County. A recent survey by the California Department of Public Health found nearly 17% of tobacco retailers in Santa Clara County illegally sell to minors. Nationally, 350,000 children under the age of 18 become cigarette smokers each year. Over 70% of minors are never asked for proof of age when purchasing tobacco products. California communities with strong tobacco retail licensing ordinances have shown an average 68% decline in youth sales.

“Tobacco ads should be regulated so they are not displayed at inappropriate places to induce youth to smoke,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, Chair of the Board’s Health and Hospital Committee. “The new ordinance will help us enforce limitations on how local retailers in the unincorporated areas display tobacco ads in their windows and doors.”

The County’s proposed Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance will protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke exposure while in public. Under the measure, smoking would be banned at the County Fairgrounds and at all County parks. More protections against secondhand smoke in workplaces in the unincorporated areas of the County would also be put in place. Smoking would be 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 would become entirely smoke-free facilities.

“Pregnant women and children are especially at high risk from secondhand smoke. Pregnant women are more likely to have low birth weight infants and a higher rate of miscarriage,” says Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Health Officer for Santa Clara County. “In addition, children exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to experience asthma and other respiratory illnesses.”

The United States Surgeon General reports that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified secondhand smoke as a dangerous carcinogen. Each year, nearly 3,000 non-smokers die of lung disease that can be linked to secondhand smoke. An additional 46,000 people die of heart disease.

The Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance bans smoking in the common areas of all multi-unit residences in the unincorporated areas. Furthermore, the ordinance would ban smoking in all units of apartments, condominiums, and townhouses. The ordinance allows for setting up designated smoking areas for multi-unit residences provided that they are in unenclosed areas that are at least 30 feet away from operable doors, windows and other openings into enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.

The Surgeon General has concluded that eliminating smoking indoors is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke inside a building. Secondhand smoke can seep under doorways, through cracks in walls, and into ventilation systems. Neither separating smokers, cleaning the air, nor ventilating the building can prevent exposure.

Funding for public education about the new ordinances will come out of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In addition to other educational efforts, the funding will also be used to advocate similar, comprehensive tobacco control policies in Santa Clara County cities.

“Smoke-related illness is one of the biggest killers in the country,” says Yeager. “The real tragedy is that it also one of the most preventable.”

Provisions of Santa Clara County Smoking Ordinances

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Jim Weston, Office of Supervisor Yeager (408) 299-5040
Posted: October 19, 2010