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Contra Costa enforcing new tobacco sales laws

Regulations designed to protect youth from tobacco products

Contra Costa County this month will begin enforcing new sales laws intended to protect youth from tobacco products.

These laws, passed last summer, include prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and libraries in unincorporated parts of the county. Also banned is the sale of cigars in pack sizes under 10, with the exception of cigars selling for $5 apiece, also in unincorporated Contra Costa County.

Contra Costa isn’t the first to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products, and joins several other Bay Area cities and counties like Santa Clara and Yolo counties, and the cities of El Cerrito, Novato, Los Gatos, San Francisco and Oakland.

According to a 2016 survey, over 80% of stores near Contra Costa schools that are licensed to sell tobacco carried flavored products, like “watermelon” or “tropical blast” cigarillos and little cigars, many of them costing less than $1.

“These tobacco products are clearly aimed at youth and they serve as a gateway to a lifetime of addiction to tobacco,” said Denice Dennis, manager of the county’s tobacco prevention program. “These new tobacco sales rules will help prevent our youth from tobacco influences in the community.”

The new regulations also ban the sale of flavored “e-liquids,” used for electronic smoking devices, or vaping devices. The county cited a recent UC San Francisco study showing that many teens who vape wouldn’t have started smoking if they only had access to traditional tobacco products.

Additionally, no new tobacco retailer licenses will be issued to businesses within situated 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds or libraries or within 500 feet of another tobacco-selling business.

The Board of Supervisors have also approved another provision that bans the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. This provision won’t take effect until July after their tobacco retailer licenses expire.

Retailers who don’t comply with the new regulations may be fined up to $500 for every day they are in violation, and could have their tobacco retailer license suspended or revoked.

For more information about the new regulations, visit the county’s health services website.

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