The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has tentatively approved an ordinance that would ban the sale of vaping products in the county’s unincorporated areas.
The ordinance represents an effort to quell the rising use of tobacco vaping products and e-cigarettes, particularly among young people. Nearly 70 percent of high school students in Alameda County who have bought vaping products reported doing so at a store or through another person; only 6.5 percent bought their vaping products and devices online.
The ordinance would build on the county’s tobacco retailer licensing ordinance, which the board adopted in January.
Under the licensing ordinance, tobacco retailers must meet requirements for pricing, packaging and retailing density and are prohibited from selling flavored tobacco products. Roughly 115 tobacco retailers have obtained a license in the county’s unincorporated areas alone.
The ban does not apply to tobacco-related products that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, such as nicotine patches or chewing gum, or to vaping devices that use cannabis rather than tobacco.
“If (vaping) is a deterrent to smoking, then do what they did with Nicorette in the beginning and that was to get it through a pharmacy,” Supervisor Scott Haggerty said. “That is the way of making sure that our children are not getting these, our children are not getting chronic coughs because their lungs are damaged.”
A July 2018 Gallup poll found that 20 percent of adults age 18-29 said they vape, while 8 percent of adults age 30-64 and less than 1 percent of adults over age 65 said the same. In addition, a 2018 survey by the University of Michigan found that 21 percent of 12th-graders and 16 percent of 10th-graders had vaped in the last 30 days.
Several other municipalities around the Bay Area — including the counties of Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Mateo and San Francisco — have enacted some type of restriction on the sale of vaping products. The cities of Livermore and Dublin have also banned the sale of the devices.
Supervisor Nate Miley was the only board member not in support of the ordinance, but chose to abstain rather than cast a vote in opposition. Miley argued the ban was akin to the early 20th-century effort to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol and will only push vaping product sales onto the black market.
He suggested more regulation without an outright ban would be a more successful method of keeping children and young people from vaping and developing nicotine addictions.
“We regulate (guns, tobacco and alcohol). We regulate all of it because if you try to ban stuff, it’s only going to produce unintended consequences,” Miley said. “Young people are still going to get this product.”
The board must vote on the ordinance a second time to ratify it. A date for the second vote has yet to be revealed. If ratified, the ordinance would go into effect 90 days after the second vote.