The City of San Luis Obispo will vote to determine if they will ban the sale of all flavored and unflavored electronic cigarettes at the Feb. 4 city council meeting. If passed, the ordinance will have a 90-day grace period before it takes effect. 

Staff presented the ordinance to city council at their Jan. 21 meeting, and city council voted 4-0 to review and vote on the ordinance on Feb. 4. Mayor Heidi Harmon was not present to vote.

“I think there is going to be a lot of good done for people’s health,” Council Member Andy Pease said at the meeting. 

Several other cities in San Luis Obispo County have banned the sale of e-cigarette products, including Arroyo Grande and Morro Bay, according to council documents. The County of San Luis Obispo also banned the sale of e-cigarettes in unincorporated areas, such as Nipomo and Los Osos, according to Assistant to the City Manger Ryan Betz. 

Kylie Kowalske | Mustang News

Council Member Erica Stewart supported the ban because of the impact electronic cigarettes have on children. 

“I do have a high school student, and I do know that they have access [to e-cigarettes] in very easy ways,” Stewart said. “This will not stop it all, but it will stop the ease.”

In California, more than 30 percent of high school students use e-cigarettes, and 10 percent use e-cigarettes daily, according to the 2018 California Health Kids Survey cited by city council documents

E-cigarettes are difficult for parents to detect, San Luis Obispo realtor Shelly Weller said.

“Parents don’t realize, they don’t see the signs of flavored nicotine,” the mother of three said. “When we were growing up, we saw the smoke, we smelt it everywhere on the clothes, the hair, and now this flavored nicotine smells like bubblegum or cotton candy or peach or watermelon or whatever, and right now it’s disguised.” 

Weller supported the ban because it protects minors in the city, she said. 

Video by Tessa Hughes

About five smoke shop owners spoke at public comment to oppose the ban. Minors are not able to buy e-cigarette products at smoke shops or liquor stores because employees are trained to card minors, Campus Bottle manager Zach Kridi said, while holding up a bag of confiscated fake ID cards he’s collected over the years. 

“Kids are going to get it, and there are so many ways to get it. From local cities, counties, online – people get it from China,” Kridi said. “People are going to smoke, you can’t stop people from smoking.”

Instead of banning the sale of e-cigarettes and punishing businesses that sell them, Kridi said the FDA should regulate the products so they are safe. 

The ban will also have a negative financial impact on businesses that sell e-cigarettes, Smoke Envy owner Fadi Mahmoad said. In 90 days, they will have to throw their unsold e-cigarette products in the trash at a financial loss, he said. 

A wave of e-cigarette bans washed over California in 2019, and the City of San Luis Obispo is following in its wake. In 2019, San Francisco was the first city to ban e-cigarettes, according to council documents

Cal Poly implemented a smoke, vapor and tobacco-free policy on Sept. 1, 2017. This policy was implemented after the California State University released Executive Order 1108, a policy on systemwide smoke and tobacco-free environments, in April 2017.

In 1990, San Luis Obispo was the first city in the world to successfully ban smoking in all public buildings, including bars and restaurants, according to the council report. In addition, the city was recently awarded a grade of “B” for its anti-smoking efforts by the American Lung Association.

Correction: The ordinance must go through a second reading before adoption, with a 90-day grace period before it takes effect. 

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