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Public Health Proposes Tobacco Retail Policy and Ordinance Change to Protect Youth

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) advocates for stronger policy and ordinances of tobacco retailing to protect local youth and decrease the prevalence of tobacco use among youth across the county. A recent report shows a surge in the use of tobacco and nicotine products among youth nationwide.

In a motion, authored by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, Public Health along with other County Departments were directed to examine potential ordinances and policies to address nuisance tobacco shops, as well as education and outreach strategies to curb tobacco use.

“We need common sense regulations to protect our young people from a lifetime of addiction and other negative health consequences that could result from tobacco use,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “There is no reason to allow these products to be marketed near schools or to be flavored specifically to appeal to young people.”

“First and foremost, we must protect our children from tobacco and nicotine products,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We are looking for ways to close loopholes that still allow smoke shop venues near residences and areas where children are present.”

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that nationwide 4.9 million middle and high school students currently used tobacco products, up from 3.6 million in 2017. The increase in tobacco product use was attributed to explosive growth in e-cigarettes users, with an increase of 1.5 million users between 2017 and 2018.

“Though we have not seen a similar increase in Los Angeles County, recent local surveys indicate that e-cigarette use has surpassed regular cigarette use among high school students,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Los Angeles County Public Health. “In 2017, 36% of local high school students reported ever using e-cigarettes, compared to 18% who reported ever using regular cigarettes; 5% reported using e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, compared to 3% who reported using regular cigarettes in the past 30 days. This tells us we need to further close the loopholes in existing County smoke-free policies and ordinances to prevent youth access to these products.”

While noting that the existing County tobacco retail licensing laws do not ban these fast-growing electronic smoking devices, Public Health issued recommendations to modernize the 2007 laws to reflect best practices.

Recommendations include the following:

  • Prohibiting sales of tobacco products near youth sensitive areas (e.g., schools and parks),
  • Restricting sales of electronic smoking devices (e.g., electronic cigarettes, vapes and other nicotine containing devices) along with regular cigarettes and cigars; and
  • Prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products including menthol.

Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of disease and disability in the United States, resulting in over 480,000 deaths each year. In Los Angeles County, tobacco use is directly linked to the four of the top five leading causes of death: coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of over 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,100 employees and has an annual budget of $1 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, and follow LA County Public Health on social media at twitter.com/lapublichealthfacebook.com/lapublichealth and youtube.com/lapublichealth.

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