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Protecting Youth from Nicotine Addiction
New ordinance restricts sale of tobacco and flavored tobacco products

Article Craig A. Wingate, Public Health Educator

On June 19, the San Mateo County Board Supervisors approved an ordinance to restrict the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and flavored tobacco products in unincorporated areas. This is a victory for our county, as we try to reduce tobacco retail density and prevent future nicotine addiction.

The ordinance was much needed, as the use of flavored tobacco products, such as electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes, vapes, etc.) among youth and young adults has increased. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of flavors, except menthol, in cigarettes but not in other tobacco products. The tobacco industry used this loophole to promote other flavored products while also setting up a pathway to future cigarette usage.

According to a 2013-2014 PATH study, 81% of youth ages 12-17 reported that flavored e-cigarettes were the first tobacco product they ever used.

More than 15,000 flavors, sold in vibrant packaging make e-cigarettes particularly appealing to young people. Kid-friendly flavors like “Captain Crunch” are designed to entice youth. Flavored tobacco product packaging is often indistinguishable from candy packaging.

Although smoking rates have declined overall, tobacco use continues to disproportionately affect certain populations, like those with mental illness. According to a CDC report, 1 in 3 adults with mental illness smoke. This is why the San Mateo County Tobacco Education Coalition (TEC) will continue to advocate for more tobacco control ordinances.  

The new ordinance will take effect this July and will be enforced starting January 1, 2019. In collaboration with the Board of Supervisors and the Tobacco Prevention Program, TEC will educate other elected officials on how ordinances that restrict flavored tobacco sales can help save lives.

Interested in joining the Tobacco Education Coalition? Visit for more information.