Flavored Tobacco & Electronic Cigarette Restrictions
The California Law SB-793 prohibits the sale of most flavored tobacco products. Flavored tobacco products include, but are not limited to, flavored cigarettes, flavored smokeless tobacco products, and flavored electronic cigarettes or e-liquids. This law does not penalize anyone who purchases, uses, or possesses a flavored tobacco product. For background information about the law, visit Undo.org.
The California Department of Public Health also has information about the law for tobacco retailers.
On May 23, 2023, the Board of Supervisors adopted an updated Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance increasing penalties on businesses that sell cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors. The ordinance is in effect. The current provisions will:
- Fine up to $500 for a first violation, and up to $1,000 for all subsequent violations within a 60-month period.
- Prohibit issuing new Tobacco Retailer Permits to any location within 1,000 feet of a “youth-populated area” or within 500 feet of an existing tobacco retailer.
- Mandate a fine for any ordinance violations and suspension of permit if a business is found to have sold tobacco products to persons under the age of 21.
- Require two on-site inspections by San Mateo County Environmental Health Services per year.
San Mateo County’s Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance affects tobacco retailers operating in unincorporated areas of the county and the following cities which have adopted the ordinance: San Carlos, San Mateo, and Millbrae.
More 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 permit 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
- The County of San Mateo Flavored Tobacco Ordinance
- The County of San Mateo Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance
In addition, the following jurisdictions have also adopted a flavored tobacco ordinance: Portola Valley, Half Moon Bay, South San Francisco, Burlingame, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, , Pacifica, and Foster City. Furthermore, the cities of South San Francisco, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, San Mateo, Redwood City, Pacifica, and Foster City restrict the sale of electronic cigarettes.
What is Considered a Flavored Tobacco Product?
Examples of flavors include fruit flavors, mint and menthol flavors, candy flavors, alcohol flavors, and spice flavors.
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 November 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.