SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.— Today, the County of Santa Clara became the first California county to pass an ordinance raising the purchase age for tobacco and electronic smoking products from 18 to 21, effective Jan. 1, 2016. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine predicts that raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 will, over time, reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent.
“The alarming proliferation of e-cigarette use among youth as an alternative to tobacco products is a growing public health concern,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, who initiated the County’s smoking, tobacco and e-cigarette product ordinances. “This targeting of youth is unacceptable and will have consequences for their health and wellbeing in the future.”
The March 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the addictive effects of nicotine, and found that "the parts of the brain most responsible for decision making, impulse control, sensation seeking, future perspective taking, and peer susceptibility and conformity continue to develop and change through young adulthood. Adolescent brains are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction.”
“Increasing age restrictions for the sale of tobacco and electronic smoking products is a necessary action to address heavy use among teens and young adults,” said President Dave Cortese, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors.
It is estimated that 90 percent of tobacco users start before the age of 21, roughly 80 percent first try tobacco before age 18, and 75 percent of teen smokers continue into their adult years. A recent report by the Institute of Medicine predicts that raising the minimum age for the sale of tobacco products to 21 will, over time, reduce the smoking rate by about 12 percent and smoking-related deaths by 10 percent.
The amendment to the ordinance (No. NS-300.883, Chapter XXIII of Division A18), will prohibit retailers in unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County from selling or distributing tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to anyone under age 21. Once the new ordinance goes into effect:
- Retailers will be required to post a notice of minimum age for purchase of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices at each point of purchase. The notice will state that selling tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to anyone under 21 years of age is illegal and subject to penalties.
- Positive identification will be required. No retailer shall sell or transfer a tobacco product or electronic smoking device to another person who appears to be under 30 years of age without first examining the customer's identification to confirm that the customer is at least the minimum age required to purchase and possess the tobacco product.
Tobacco retailers in the unincorporated areas will be notified by letter of the changes to the County Ordinance. All affected tobacco retailers will be provided with notification signs regarding the minimum age for purchase of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices. The County will also conduct in-store education of recent changes with tobacco retailer store owners and/or employees to facilitate the new age restrictions.
“Comprehensive smoke-free laws and comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation programs are proven strategies to reduce tobacco use and save lives,” said Dan Peddycord, Director of the Public Health Department. “The Board of Supervisors’ decisive action to increase the minimum sale age for tobacco products to 21 complements these approaches to reduce youth tobacco use.”
Efforts are underway statewide to increase the purchase age for tobacco products. Currently, the state of Hawaii and more than 60 municipalities in the United States, including Healdsburg in California and New York City, have raised the legal sale age for tobacco to 21. In January, State Senator Ed Hernandez introduced SB 151, a statewide measure seeking to decrease tobacco addiction in California by severely limiting youth access to tobacco products and raising the age of purchase to 21.
In 2010, the Board adopted three tobacco prevention ordinances to reduce and prevent tobacco use among youth and others, and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. One of the ordinances, 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. (Santa Clara County Ordinance Code, Div. A18, Ch. XXIII (§ A18-367 et seq).) The ordinance also, among other things, restricts future retailers from operating within 1,000 feet of a school or 500 feet of an existing retailer. In 2014, the County amended the current tobacco prevention policies to incorporate restrictions related to the use and sale of electronic smoking devices. Most recently in February 2015, the County’s Ordinance Code provision prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products went into effect.
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Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, 408-299-5119; Jim Weston, Chief of Staff, Office of Supervisor Ken Yeager, (408) 299-5040
Posted: June 9, 2015