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Sue Frost's picture
Joined: 05/22/2017
Posts: 20
Should Sacramento County Ban Flavored Tobacco?

Earlier this year, in an attempt to curb teen smoking, the City of Sacramento voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products (including flavored e-cigarette cartridges), and soon the County of Sacramento will be facing a decision on whether or not to follow suit.  Since this is a controversial issue that would directly impact the County, I wanted to take the opportunity to explain to you my initial concerns with such a ban.

I want to say at the beginning that I am completely in agreement with the proponents of flavored tobacco bans in the goal of reducing teen smoking.  We should be doing everything we can do keep teens from smoking, and educating them so that when they turn 18 they fully know the dangers associated with smoking.  I recognize that teens are illegally obtaining and using flavored tobacco products in greater volume, and in many cases transitioning to traditional cigarettes. 

But Sacramento County doesn’t have a wall built around it, and anyone who wants to buy flavored tobacco products can easily obtain them from other nearby areas that have not banned it.  These products will still be readily available in every county surrounding ours, as well as cities like Citrus Heights, Folsom, and Rancho Cordova. A statewide ban could be far more effective for an area like Sacramento, but even then, the widespread proliferation of marijuana prior to its legalization in California proves that even national bans can be largely ineffective.  

The ban also doesn’t come free.  When the City of Sacramento enacted their ban, they expected that they would lose a couple million in yearly tax revenue as a result.  And in the week following the city’s decision, one of Sacramento’s oldest tobacco shops had already announced they would be closing their doors due to the expected impact to their sales.  While this may be manageable for the city, Sacramento County is struggling financially. This past budget we were forced to make reductions in services due to budgetary struggles (primarily brought on by a few large lawsuits against the County), and next year we will likely be doing the same.  

I have also heard from many adults who legally use flavored tobacco products both because they recreationally enjoy it, and because they use it as an alternative to smoking.  While these adults will still be able to access them in other communities, it will make it more difficult for them to access something that is legal to use.  

Instead of a ban, we could instead solve this problem by increasing the penalty for selling tobacco products to a minor from the current maximum of $7,500, to a new minimum of $7,500, accompanied by a ramped up undercover shopper program.  This increase in penalties could potentially fully offset the cost of an improved undercover shopper program, but at the very least be substantially less than the loss in revenue we will now be facing under the ban.

Leading up to my vote on this issue, I will be meeting with stakeholders on both sides of the issue to understand their perspectives in more detail.  But more than anything, I want to hear what you have to say. Please e-mail me your thoughts at SupervisorFrost@saccounty.net. Thank you for reading!

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Bunky Svendsen's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 165
flavored tobacco ban

Supervisor Frost,

Are you concerned for teens or are you worried about the loss of tax dollars to the county if flavored tobacco products are banned? Im confused by your position. Just ban it all. Everyone will find a way around it. Remember prohibition?

Jeffrey D Consiglio's picture
Joined: 09/09/2018
Posts: 18
RE: Teen Smoking

As bad as smoking is, alcohol is far more damaging to society in my opinion. Yet history has taught us that banning alcohol, however well intended, resulted in the "law of unintended consequences" kicking in with devastating results. Gangs, murder, and an INCREASE in female alcoholism. And I say that as someone who doesn't drink a drop of alcohol personally. 

I think smoking is really stupid, and sure as heck don't want kids buying it. But banning one form of it outright seems like an exercise in futility. 

The less the government gets involved in adult's personal decisions, the better. At least as long as your decisions aren't directly harming others. 

Telling adults they can't buy such-and-such, simply because that particular thing is abused by teens is more "Big Brother" than I'm comfortable with. 

By that logic, we should also ban the sale of alcohol to adults, since that is also very heavily abused by many teens.

I do however agree with the idea of fining whoever sells the stuff to teens.

Jeff Consiglio
Rancho Murieta Resident

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