The Kern County Board of Supervisors will consider a wide range of bans for tobacco and vaping products at its meeting on Tuesday, potentially kicking off a process that could drastically alter smoking behavior throughout the county.
In addition to banning the sales of items related to vaping, the county will also consider banning smoking in parks and on public sidewalks, or potentially an overarching ban on smoking outdoors.
“This is really a first step,” said Michelle Corson, spokeswoman for Kern County Public Health, which will present a list of potential options for supervisors to consider on Tuesday.
Supervisors are not expected to vote to implement any of the options on Tuesday.
“We’re going to be presenting these (options) for discussion,” Corson said. “If the board wished for us to begin to take action on one of the items we’ve presented, or any others that were to come up in the discussion, they would then send us off to do that.”
Supervisors could return at a later meeting to act on the options presented at Tuesday’s meeting.
Los Angeles and San Francisco counties have both banned sales of vaping products, while the city of Santa Barbara bans smoking in all public places and Del Mar in San Diego County bans smoking on sidewalks.
Supervisor Mike Maggard requested the Health Department develop the list in early October. He said at the time he was concerned about unregulated vaping products being sold in Kern County and marketed to children.
Several Kern residents have spoken out against the vaping ban. One woman emailed The Californian, saying supervisors would be acting like “Big Brother” if they enacted the ban.
The proposal comes after three vaping-associated lung injuries resulted in hospitalizations in Kern County.
As of Oct. 15, the Health Department says 1,479 pulmonary lung injury cases have been linked to vaping throughout the United States, of which 33 have resulted in death.
The Health Department says smoking is the No. 1 cause of death and disease, claiming the lives of 480,000 people in America each year.
In response to Maggard’s request, the Health Department prepared the following options.
Park restrictions: Supervisors could expand an existing county ordinance to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of any playground or sandbox area in a park, along with prohibiting smoking within 250 feet of any youth sports events in the park.
Sidewalk/outdoor smoking ban: In an effort to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, supervisors could prohibit smoking on sidewalks and sections of the street lined with a sidewalk, or institute an outdoor smoking restriction.
Density restrictions: Supervisors could limit where tobacco retailers can be located, banning retailers from being within 500 to 1,000 feet of youth-populated areas.
Minimum price: Cigarillos and inexpensive cigars under $5 could be banned. A minimum package size of 20 for “little cigars” and five for inexpensive cigars could be enforced.
Flavored tobacco ban: Supervisors could ban sales of tobacco flavors, including menthol, following the lead of Los Angeles County and San Francisco, according to the Health Department.
Vaping products ban: A study from the American College of Physicians indicated teens are more than seven times more likely to vape nicotine than adults, the Health Department said. Supervisors could ban the sale of vaping products throughout the county.
Supervisors recently heard a presentation by Students Working Against Tobacco, which claimed vaping was occurring in classrooms, and four out of five stores near schools sell flavored tobacco products, the Health Department said in its letter to supervisors.
The group asked supervisors to consider stricter tobacco policies.
Those policies will be under discussion on Tuesday.