Until now, electronic cigarette users have enjoyed unfettered freedom to vape when and where they please. But Santa Clara County supervisors want to catch up with the trend and pull it under the purview of existing anti-smoking laws.
“Unfortunately, the rapidly increasing use of e-cigarettes threatens to undo much of the social norm change around tobacco use that has largely resulted from policies like the ones implemented by the county,” states a memo, introduced by Supervisor Ken Yeager, that's going before the Board of Supervisors next week.
E-cig and vape smokers could undermine those policies, county officials say, because smoking in public effectively advertises those products in ways that have been restricted for cigarettes and other tobacco products for generations.
Children and teens are especially vulnerable to the re-normalization of smoking through e-cigs and their array of candy and fruit flavors that regular old cigarette companies have been banned from peddling since 2009, the county says.
“Youth are now witnessing smoking behaviors in public spaces that have been smoke-free for most, if not all, of their life,” the report reads. “Youth are also being exposed to e-cigarette advertising on television, something that has been prohibited for decades for traditional tobacco products.”
In the absence of federal regulation, several communities have passed ordinances limiting use and sale of e-cigs and vapes. San Francisco supervisors are considering an ordinance and Los Angeles recently passed restrictions that treat vapes like traditional cigarettes. More than 100 cities and counties in the nation—including 40 in California alone—have passed similar regulations.
E-cigs have been touted as a safer, healthier alternative to smoking and come with infusions of tobacco, cannabis or just the flavor. The “smoke” is simply a water vapor that evaporates in seconds. But health officials worry that the ritual of smoking, even if it’s a tobacco- and cannabis-free vapor can lead to hard-to-break habits.
The county will explore the option of updating the official definition of smoking to include e-cigs. It will then come back with a report about how to turn that into an ordinance.
- County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody recently visited the region’s largest homeless encampment—“The Jungle” by Happy Hollow Zoo—to get a better sense of the health challenges its residents face. She found that little is known about the prevalence of HIV in the community. What is known is that documented cases aren’t being treated properly. This is problematic, she says, because untreated HIV-sufferers experience serious health problems and risk infecting others, whether through unprotected sex or intravenous drug use. Because of these uncertainties, Supervisor Yeager asked Cody to come up with a report for the Health and Hospital Committee about the prevalence of HIV within the county’s homeless camps and what public health officials can do to intervene. Homelessness and HIV are intricately related, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. For one, the cost of care for people living with HIV or AIDS often takes a huge toll on people, putting them at enormous risk of losing their home. Plus, a homeless person’s chance of contracting the disease is disproportionately high, largely because of substance abuse and unsafe sex.
- The county wants to chip in $70,000 to help the Rotary Club reach its $200,000 fundraising goal to bring back fireworks to San Jose’s downtown Fourth of July celebration. Supervisor Dave Cortese announced this plan a month ago with all the fanfare of a coronation.
- Unincorporated parts of the region are on track to meet affordable housing goals, thanks in part to the Stanford Affordable Housing Fund. The Stanford fund created in 2000 demands that the university provides one unit of affordable housing or an in-lieu fee for every 11,000 square feet of new campus development.
- The county sent out this questionnaire to 15 local law enforcement agencies, asking for more details about how they’re complying with hate crime policies and training. Supervisors expect a report back with the results next month.
- Supervisors will take a moment to honor San Jose native Alain Dang, a nationally known LGBT activist and scholar who died at the age of 37, six hours after checking into a hospital for flu-like symptoms.
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Lynn Regadanz, [email protected]