SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Supervisors approved a proposed ban on flavored tobacco products Tuesday.
Santa Maria and Carpinteria passed similar bans last month. This ban, which is expected to become official next Tuesday, will go into effect just after the New Year. It will affect 66 stores in unincorporated areas of the county.
The ban will also prohibit the mail-order delivery of tobacco products locally, prohibit coupons and discounts for tobacco products and update the definition of tobacco to include electronic smoking devices.
Santa Barbara County Public Health spent about nine months compiling data from various studies to present to the Board. That data showed candy-like flavors and menthol, along with packaging that resembles popular children's snacks, are being used to market the products to children and teens.
County Public Health also presented data that challenged the idea that flavored e-cigarettes reliably help adults quick smoking.
The Board also saw passionate testimony from several members of the public who supported the ban. Many were parents, teachers and students.
Dos Pueblos High School junior Vanessa Ramirez Garcia was one of the speakers, saying that just knowing the health risks is not enough because the flavored products are too easy to get in local schools.
"There’s practically no challenge with it," she said. "Any of my friends, classmates, just regular teenagers who are putting their lives at risk, their health at risk. I don’t want that to happen anymore."
Local tobacco retailers also spoke at Tuesday's meeting, saying they know there is a national and local youth tobacco problem, but that an outright ban could unfairly hurt local businesses.
People under 21 cannot buy flavored tobacco products in California, but those who are legally old enough often buy larger amounts and re-sell them to the younger market.
The Supervisors voted 4-1, with 4th District supervisor Peter Adam opposing. Adam said he supports a ban on vaping for children but believes a ban on the products locally will not stop children from getting the products from those who buy the products elsewhere.
Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart said the ban "won’t solve this problem entirely, but it is the first step. And we need to take it today."