SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. –Today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took action to protect the public’s health by adding e-cigarettes to tobacco control ordinances for unincorporated Santa Clara County. The changes include restricting e-cigarette sales near schools, banning smoking in common areas of multi-unit residences, and protecting the social norm advances related to tobacco use by restricting e-cigarette use in public spaces. This follows the Board’s action in March that added e-cigarettes to the County’s no-smoking policies for County facilities, leased properties, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and health clinics.
“Santa Clara County has been a leader in protecting and promoting the public health and welfare of our communities, implementing some of the strongest second hand smoke ordinances in the nation,” 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. “Electronic smoking devices emit toxic chemicals, lead to an increase in nicotine use, and entice youth to smoke at an early age. E-cigarettes threaten the County’s goal of promoting a healthy community.”
In 2010, the Board adopted three tobacco prevention ordinances that have helped to change social norms, preventing people from initiating smoking, or encouraging them to quit. E-cigarette restrictions will be added to the County’s three comprehensive measures, including, the Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance (No. NS-625.5), the Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance (No. NS-625.6) and the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-300.832). Use of electronic smoking devices will be restricted wherever smoking is prohibited by state or local law. This includes indoor and outdoor areas (worksites, restaurants, bars, County Parks, outdoor dining, etc). The one exception is private units in multi-unit residences. This exception was made because e-cigarettes were determined to be less of a threat to social norm changes in a private space, and there is a lack of research regarding the harms of secondhand vapor drifting into ventilation and other openings, like there is with secondhand smoke.
The changes to the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance would require retailers of electronic smoking devices to obtain a local permit and follow the same requirements as tobacco retailers. This ordinance would also prohibit self-service display of electronic smoking devices, and the sale of tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in vending machines. The prohibition on the sale of flavored tobacco products will not apply to electronic smoking devices at this time but may be addressed by the Board later.
As of July 2013, 47% of tobacco retailers in Santa Clara County, or 677 stores, sold electronic smoking devices. Currently there are 24 tobacco retailers permitted in the county unincorporated areas, of which nine currently sell e-cigarettes.
Electronic smoking devices are currently unregulated by the federal government, and few restrictions exist at the state level. Because e-cigarettes are not FDA regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dose of nicotine, nor the additional chemicals contained in the product they’re using nor their associated health risks. The FDA has warned the public about the potential health risks of using electronic cigarettes and has found carcinogenic chemicals and toxic ingredients in some electronic cigarettes.
“The lack of regulation and widespread availability of e-cigarettes nationwide have contributed to increasing social acceptance of e-cigarettes and the misperception that these products are somehow safe,” said Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer. “E-cigarettes threaten to undo much of the social norm change around tobacco use, norm change that has undoubtedly saved lives, and largely resulted from policies like the ones implemented by the County.”
A CDC study showed that, in 2011, 4.7% of all high school students had tried electronic smoking devices. By 2012, that figure had increased to 10.0% of all high school students. According to the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, there is growing evidence of potential health harms of smoking e-cigarettes. Nicotine is highly addictive and may cause or contribute to cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
The e-cigarette use regulations become effective 30 days from the second reading on June 24, and tobacco sales regulations will be effective 60 days following the second reading.