Local Government

Board of Supervisors Approve Flavored Tobacco Ban

At its January 11th meeting, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors introduced an ordinance that bans flavored tobacco sales to any person in the unincorporated area of Sacramento County.

The ordinance will go to the Board on January 25th for adoption and will go into effect on July 25, 2022.

This ordinance will ban the sale of flavored tobacco to any person in the unincorporated area of the County, regardless of age. County businesses have six months to rid themselves of their current supply of products, or possibly face fines of up to $25,000 in the future.

The ban includes nicotine liquids, flavored cigarettes and cigars, and any other flavored product containing tobacco or nicotine that may be ingested. All cigarette products with smells and flavors besides tobacco are prohibited from being sold. Violation of the ordinance can result in suspension or revocation of a Tobacco Retailer License. 

California passed a ban on flavored tobacco in 2020, but it never took effect because tobacco companies filed a referendum, which will be on the ballot in November.

The sole voice of reason on the Board is District 4 Supervisor Sue Frost, who said:

Sue Frost

“While I am not a smoker and completely agree that teens should not be smoking, selling tobacco to minors is already illegal, and I fear that this will simply impact adults who choose to use these products for their own personal reasons. Teens will still be able to get these products, as they will continue to be sold online and in neighboring cities and counties. I advocated that a better approach would be to heavily increase a “secret shopper” program, and couple it with a zero-tolerance approach that revoked tobacco licenses from retailers who were selling to minors. I believe that would do a better job at reducing teen smoking, while still allowing adults to purchase what they want.”

Sue Frost

All states had age restrictions for tobacco in place before 1939. In 2009, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act was enacted under the Barack Obama administration, setting a federal minimum age of eighteen and prohibiting the FDA from setting a higher minimum purchase age. In the State of California, as of June 9th 2016, it is illegal to sell or furnish tobacco to a person under 21 years of age. Before this date, the age to purchase tobacco was 18 years of age.

This ordinance only applies to the incorporated areas of Sacramento County. Flavored tobacco products will continue to be available within the cities of Citrus Heights, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, and Galt. They will also be available in adjacent counties, in locations such as West Sacramento, Roseville, and El Dorado Hills. (Elk Grove enacted its own ordinance previously).

This ban also does not prevent ordering flavored nicotine liquids online.

The City of Sacramento banned flavored tobacco products three years ago in April of 2019. However, today you can walk into any “Smoke shop” within the city and purchase unflavored nicotine liquid with a non-nicotine flavoring mix-in.

According to the new ordinance, retailers may not purchase flavored tobacco inventory for sale between the ordinance’s adoption and effective date.

A significant percentage of electronic cigarettes offered by tobacco retailers contain flavored nicotine, which comes in a variety of sweet or minty flavors attractive to youths. In 2016, 82 percent of tobacco retailers in California sold flavored non-cigarette tobacco products, more than 90 percent sold menthol cigarettes, and 80 percent of tobacco retailers near schools sold flavored non-cigarette tobacco products. Mentholated and flavored products have been shown to be starter products for youths who begin using tobacco and establish tobacco habits that can lead to long-term addiction. The ordinance will reduce the potential for youths to begin or continue using tobacco products.

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