Contra Costa County supes ban sale of vaping devices, flavored tobacco

Close up of inhaling from an electronic cigarette.

Starting next week, the sale of tobacco and cannabis vaping products, along with the sale of flavored and menthol tobacco products, will be prohibited in unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County.

The County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in favor of the ban Tuesday, becoming the latest in a growing number of governing bodies enacting similar prohibitions in response to public health concerns over respiratory illnesses linked to vaping nationwide (See CDC report here), and to the high prevalence of vaping among young people and on school campuses.

The newly-passed ordinance amendments ban the sale of electronic smoking devices or e-liquids for tobacco unless they are reviewed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also banned are the sale or delivery of any e-liquid or electronic vaping devices used to consume cannabis.

Previous to the amendments approved by the Board on Tuesday, the sale of flavored and menthol tobacco products were prohibited within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, parks and libraries. Following Tuesday’s vote, selling them will be prohibited in all unincorporated County areas. 

Supervisor John Gioia said Tuesday’s ordinance is “truly about improving the public health of everybody, and trying to fight back against the tobacco industry’s attempt to hook more young people.”

Opponents of the ban caution that more users will turn to an unregulated and potentially dangerous black market to get their products. Others point to studies showing vaping is less harmful than smoking, and thus is a better alternative for adults.

In September, Richmond banned sales of e-cigarette products, following in the footsteps of the cities of San Francisco and Livermore.