Santa Clara County lawmakers to vote on banning e-cigarettes
"Vaping in the VAPES Warehouse" by VAPES.COM is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A ban on vaping could reach all corners of unincorporated Santa Clara County in just six weeks.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a referral to consider options for banning the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes in unincorporated parts of the county for people under age 21.

County Counsel James Williams and administrators will report back to the board in six weeks, and a vote to approve the ban will occur during the Nov. 5 meeting.

If adopted, Santa Clara County would join the a host of others this year that banned the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco, including San Francisco and Livermore. In 2014, Santa Clara County banned flavored tobacco, except in adult-only stores. It did not include e-cigarettes.

In San Jose, East Side Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco also called for a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products in the nation’s 10th largest city. Her proposal passed a council committee and is headed to the full City Council for consideration.

Led by Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, the county recommendations focused primarily on banning vaping among teens. Chavez shared statistics that one in three Santa Clara County youth have tried vaping, according to a survey of 6,000 teens, and the national rate of use by high school students increased by 78 percent between 2017-18. That national rate is now 20.8 percent.

“That number is staggering,” Chavez said Tuesday. “The amount of nicotine youth used to be able to consume in hours can now happen in minutes.”

Chavez cited potential causes to this dramatic increase, including predatory marketing toward youth, misinformation regarding safety of substances in e-cigarette products and a general cultural acceptance of vaping.

Cortese supported the potential ban, saying he thinks this issue is similar to the area’s actions in the flavored tobacco ban. “I would call these actions no-braiders, and (they) maybe should have happened even sooner,” Cortese said. “I doubt health experts and non-experts would have any significant opposition toward gaining the same posture as tobacco.”

In addition to potentially approving the ban, county administrators on Nov. 5 will share a report about the use of e-cigarette use by youth under 21 years old and what can be done to address the issue.

“It’s clear to me we don’t know how to talk to young people about this issue yet,” Chavez said, adding that past anti-tobacco efforts often only reached youth that never planned on smoking. “A thoughtful plan is needed to have conversations with the kids that are vaping. There’s something deeper going on.”

The item will also be added to the agenda for the Health and Hospital Committee meeting Oct. 30.

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

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