County enforcing new flavored tobacco laws in unincorporated areas


Starting this month, new regulations on the sale of flavored tobacco products are being enforced in unincorporated parts of Contra Costa County.

In July, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved new laws aimed at preventing flavored tobacco products from luring youth into addiction. Retailers were given until this month to prepare, and the county announced this week that enforcement of the laws has begun.

The regulations prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and flavored e-liquids within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds, and libraries in unincorporated parts of the county. The sale of cigars in pack sizes under 10 is also prohibited in unincorporated Contra Costa County, with cigars selling for more than $5 each excluded from the regulations.

In recent months, the county has sent representatives from its Tobacco Prevention Program to conduct education and outreach to all tobacco retailers. More than 80-percent of retailers located near schools in unincorporated areas carry inexpensive cigarillos or little cigars with flavors such as “watermelon” or “tropical blast,” according to a 2016 survey that helped inform the regulations.

“These tobacco products are clearly aimed at youth and they serve as a gateway to a lifetime of addiction to tobacco,” said Denice Dennis, manager of the Tobacco Prevention Program.

Other regulations approved this past summer have been in effect since Aug. 17. The sale of flavored “e-liquids” for use with electronic smoking devices, which also come in candy and fruit flavors, is now banned. Also, no new tobacco retailer licenses can be granted to businesses located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds or libraries, or within 500 feet of another business that sells tobacco.

Another provision won’t take effect until July 2018: It bans sales of tobacco products in pharmacies after their tobacco retailer licenses expire, the county says.

“Retailers not complying with the new rules can be fined up to $500 for each day they are in violation and may face suspension or revocation of their tobacco retailer license,” according to the county statement.

Contra Costa is one of several Bay Area cities to impose prohibitions on flavored tobacco products. Similar regulations are being considered in Richmond, where its City Council last year requested city staff to draft an ordinance on the topic and mulled raising the legal age to purchase cigarettes to 21.

For more information about the County’s new tobacco regulations, please visit