Santa Clara County is the latest county in California to completely ban the sale of e-cigarettes.
During its Nov. 5 meeting, the County Board of Supervisors approved a ban on the sale or distribution of e-cigarette devices and associated products. It also voted to clarify the current ban on flavored tobacco products to include menthol and eliminated the exemption for retailers that serve adults over 21 to sell flavored tobacco products.
“It is based on the same theory that these are not FDA approved devices. These are not regulated and the current evidence seems to show considerable lack of safety in using these products,” said County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, whose district includes the City of Santa Clara. “It really is an overall health issue with a more particular focus on youth but you really can’t make a different claim for the same unregulated products for adults.”
While the ban was immediate, the actual results may not be seen for months.
“They don’t have to comply until their current permit expires. It depends on the retailer. Some could be a couple of years away; some could be months away,” said Ellenberg.
Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health oversees the permitting process and has simply stopped issuing permits for e-cigarette retailers.
Ellenberg says while the Board understands this will only affect a small portion of the county, the hope is that it will have a wider impact down the road.
“We can only regulate in unincorporated Santa Clara County; we can’t impact the cities. The reality is that this is impacting just 17 retailers,” said Ellenberg. “The greater purpose of it is ideally to be a model ordinance for cities and a number of cities throughout the county are taking up this mantel.”
Ellenberg says approximately seven cities are working with the Santa Clara County Public Health on a similar ban, including Sunnyvale.
“Our public health department has been leading on this for a long time and working with a number of cities and offering to help them with their implementation and oversight of the permitting process, even with some financial help there,” said Supervisor Ellenberg.
The City of Santa Clara has not made any indication that it will issue an all-out ban on the sale of e-cigarettes, but City Director of Communications Lenka Wright did point out that the City expanded its Smoking and Tobacco Regulations Ordinance, which includes e-cigarettes, earlier this year.
In February, the City expanded smoking restricted areas to include open air dining areas, public parks, service areas such as ATMs and transit stops, public places being used for a public event, multi-use residences such as apartment complexes and within 30 feet of any operable doorway, window opening and vent in any area where smoking is prohibited.
All of the regulations apply to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, electronic or battery-operated cigarettes or vape devices, cannabis and marijuana.
So far, Santa Clara County has not heard from e-cigarette producers like Juul about opposition to the ban. Juul was very vocal in its opposition to San Francisco’s ban on e-cigarettes earlier this year.
On Nov. 5, San Francisco voted on Proposition C, a measure designed to authorize and regulate the sale of e-cigarettes in San Francisco. It was defeated with less than 20 percent of the population voting in favor of the proposition.