San Mateo County board votes to ban sale of flavored tobacco products

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The sale of flavored tobacco products will soon be banned at pharmacies and retailers in the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County following a unanimous vote by the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The measure, meant to reduce the ability of youth to access flavored tobacco products, will go into effect 30 days after the Board of Supervisors approve it at a second reading at its next meeting. Enforcement on retailers by the county’s Health System will not begin until Jan. 1, 2019.

Opponents of the ban say it would unduly impact the 47 businesses in unincorporated areas that are able to sell tobacco products. Proponents say the ban will prevent Big Tobacco from deceptive marketing tactics aimed at luring young people into an addictive, unhealthy habit and will ultimately save on public health costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses.

After the county ordinance is enacted, Supervisors David Canepa and Carole Groom, who introduced the ordinance, said they will work with the county’s cities to pass similar bans on flavored tobacco products.

“We proposed this ordinance because it’s about prevention,” Groom said. “We just think it’s the best thing we can do to keep this county healthy.”

Previous to this vote, the Board imposed smoke-free requirements for multi-unit housing facilities, county campuses, workplaces and restaurants; banned tobacco self-service displays and required licenses for tobacco retailers, according to the county. Also, smoking is also prohibited within 30 feet of doors and windows in county-owned or operated buildings.