Monterey County is set to ratify a ban this month on the sale of flavored tobacco products, more than a month after the ban was first proposed.
The county Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of the proposal, which would also ban the sale of single-use electronic cigarettes.
The board will vote to ratify the ordinance at its March 15 meeting. If approved, it would go into effect April 16.
The board initially approved the full ban on the sale of flavored tobacco at its Jan. 25 meeting in an effort to prevent children from becoming addicted to tobacco products via flavored tobacco.
At that time, the board added an exemption for so-called “modified risk tobacco products,” which can include products like smokeless tobacco and vaping devices that pose generally lower health risks to users and the general population than traditional tobacco products like cigarettes.
But the board backtracked at its Feb. 8 meeting while considering a second, ratifying vote on the ordinance, as supervisors argued that products labeled as modified risk is only a marketing device used by tobacco companies.
“For us to amend an ordinance based on a marketing designation really doesn’t appear, to me, to serve the best interests of our children or our community,” Supervisor Wendy Root Askew said at the Feb. 8 meeting.
At that time, Michelle House, the health program coordinator within the county’s health department, said county health officials believe the modified risk designation to be an “attempt to undermine government regulation by utilizing (tobacco products) as harm reduction.”
Federal officials first introduced the modified risk tobacco product designation in 2009 as part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which enabled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the tobacco industry.
The FDA granted its first modified risk designation in 2019. Of the 14 federally approved modified risk tobacco products, three utilize flavored tobacco, according to county officials.
While anti-tobacco groups like the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and Parents Against Vaping voiced their disapproval of the exemption for modified risk tobacco, the ordinance the board considered Tuesday drew their support.
“(This ordinance) will protect local kids and marginalized communities from the tobacco industry’s predatory practices,” said Alexa Wohrman, a spokesperson for the AHA. “This policy is about health equity, social justice and saving future generations of Monterey County residents.”