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Flavored Tobacco & Electronic Cigarette Restrictions

General information
Examples of flavored tobacco products

The California Law SB-793, which would prohibit the sale of most flavored tobacco products, has been suspended as a result of a qualifying referendum. This bill will be voted on during the next statewide general election in November 2022.  Therefore, there is currently no CA State ban in effect. However, some jurisdictions in San Mateo County have adopted their own local ordinances restricting the sale of flavored tobacco and/or electronic cigarettes. Tobacco retailers in those jurisdictions must continue to comply with the local restrictions. Tobacco retailers who continue to sell flavored tobacco products place themselves at risk of receiving a fine and/or having their local tobacco retailer license suspended.

These ordinances serve to address the recent increase in flavored tobacco (i.e. e-cigarettes, vapes, etc.) use among youth and young adults, which has led to an “epidemic”, as declared by the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Surgeon General in the fall of 2018.

Resources that may be helpful to understand the issue:

Areas of the County with Flavored Tobacco Restrictions

San Mateo County’s flavored tobacco ordinance affects tobacco retailers operating in unincorporated areas of the county.

In addition, the following jurisdictions have also adopted a flavored tobacco ordinance: Portola ValleyHalf Moon BaySan CarlosSouth San FranciscoBurlingameMenlo ParkEast Palo Alto, San Mateo, Redwood City, and Pacifica. Furthermore, the cities of South San Francisco, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, San Mateo, Redwood City, and Pacifica restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes.

What is Considered a Flavored Tobacco Product?

A flavored tobacco product is any nicotine or tobacco product, including but not limited to smokeless/chew, cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, vape liquid (used in e-cigarettes), and hookah tobacco, that contains an aroma and/or flavor, such as menthol, mint, fruit, spice, sweet, or a food or drink product (i.e. Pancake or Cherry Slush).

What is Considered an Electronic Cigarette Product?

“E-cigarettes” are a type of tobacco product, in the form of any device or delivery system sold in combination with nicotine, including, but not limited to, an e-cigarette, e-cigar, e-pipe, vape pen, or e-hookah. Electronic cigarettes also includes any component, part, or accessory of such a device that is used during the operation of the device when sold in combination with any liquid or substance containing nicotine, including, but not limited to, any liquid or substance containing nicotine, whether sold separately or sold in combination with any device that could be used to deliver to a person nicotine in aerosolized or vaporized form.

More on the Ordinances Adopted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors

On June 19, 2018, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that restricts the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies and flavored tobacco products in unincorporated areas. Enforcement began on January 1, 2019.  On December 12, 2019, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that restricts the sale or distribution of e-cigarettes sold in combination with nicotine. Enforcement on electronic cigarettes began in June 2020.