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    Support Ordinance to Protect the Health of Our Sonoma County Youth

    Support Ordinance to Protect the Health of Our Sonoma County Youth

    ExpandUnderage tobacco use is a real concern in West County and Sonoma County overall. Recent California Healthy Kids Survey data (2011-2013) estimates that the West Sonoma County Union High School District has the highest female teen smoking rate in the County as well as an overall teen smoking rate that is higher than both the County and State averages. Sonoma County’s countywide teenage smoking rate is also higher than for the State overall (13.7% versus 10.2%). Nearly nine out of ten life-long smokers start by age 18, establishing an addiction to nicotine before they are old enough to understand the harms. Tobacco remains the #1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. and causes approximately 570 deaths each year in Sonoma County.

    Tobacco Retail Licensing is highly effective at reducing youth access to tobacco. TRL's have been shown to reduce youth access to tobacco on average by 26% percent. TRLs have been passed in more than 140 jurisdictions in California including recently in Healdsburg and the City of Sonoma.

    The County is considering a Tobacco Retail License (TRL) ordinance and the tobacco industry has organized and impressed the Board of Supervisors with their opposition. The County recently pushed the date back for the Supervisors to discuss the TRL to September 1st, because they first want to see commitment from other cities to consider adopting a TRL. The onus is now on local cities and the public to show their strong support for this ordinance that would prevent many of our local youth from taking up a habit that would otherwise likely lead them to live a shorter, less healthy life.

    Local institutions including West County Health Centers, West Sonoma County Union High School District and the Palm Drive Health Care District Board have adopted resolutions in support of the unincorporated ordinance because of the impact it would have on the health of our local youth.

    KIDS CAN EASILY PURCHASE TOBACCO PRODUCTS IN SONOMA COUNTY: 69% of the County’s 11th graders report that it’s “fairly” or “very” easy to obtain cigarettes. Findings from a youth tobacco purchase survey conducted in February, show that unincorporated Sonoma County has a higher percentage of retailers selling tobacco to minors than the State of California overall (18% versus 9%). This means that Sonoma County teens, and in particular those living in unincorporated areas where retailers sell at higher rates to minors, are at an increased risk for being life-long smokers and a laundry list of negative health consequences.

    The ordinance calls for requiring tobacco and e-cigarette retailers in Sonoma County’s unincorporated areas to pay a fee and renew their county issued license annually. The fees would pay for enforcement and compliance activities in order to prevent youth from purchasing tobacco products. The current one-time license fee that retailers pay of $100 is not sufficient to conduct education and compliance activities.

    POLICY PROVISIONS STRENGTHEN THE EFFECT OF THE ORDINANCE: The ordinance could be approved with or without additional policy provisions or add-ons that would significantly strengthen the effect of the ordinance.

    As it stands, policy provisions include:

    • NO NEW TOBACCO/E-CIGARETTE RETAILERS WITHIN 1,000 FEET OF SCHOOLS: Current tobacco/e-cigarette retailers would be grandfathered in and allowed to get licenses.

    • E-CIGS WOULD BE DEFINED AS TOBACCO PRODUCT: Several recent studies, including by University of California at San Francisco researchers, have found e-cigarettes to be a gateway for smoking cigarettes among adolescents in the United States as well as making them less likely to quit. The UCSF study of nearly 40,000 youth around the country also found that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students doubled between 2011 and 2012, from 3.1 percent to 6.5 percent. The Surgeon General and FDA have found that nicotine found in e-cigarettes impacts fetal and adolescent brain development and that e-cigarettes also contain harmful chemicals including carcinogens. Unfortunately, most e-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the FDA, but the ordinance would define tobacco product and paraphernalia to include all nicotine and non-traditional products such as e-cigarettes so that they would be included in the ordinance.

    • SET A MINIMUM PRICE FOR TOBACCO PRODUCTS: Raising the price of tobacco is shown to be the most effective strategy to reduce youth smoking rates and is an important provision in the ordinance. The average price for a pack of cigarettes in California is $5.76, which ranks 24th in the nation and far behind leading states like NY, where the avg. cost is $10.29. A minimum price of $7 per pack of cigarettes represents a modest price increase; one that creates a barrier for youth while limiting the impact on adults.

    A STRONG TRL IS ALIGNED WITH SONOMA’S COMMITMENT TO HEALTH AND TO YOUTH: A Portrait of Sonoma County, strongly recommends Sonoma County "redouble antismoking efforts" as one of its key recommendations to promote the overall well-being of Sonoma County residents. The tobacco retail license (TRL) being considered by the Board would represent one of the strongest passed in California and the Country. The TRL would effectively decrease underage access to tobacco limiting the impacts of tobacco on our community’s youth, health and prosperity and state our belief in protecting the health of our youth.

    SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR THIS IMPORTANT ORDINANCE: Please consider showing your support for this important ordinance either at the local city level or for the County ordinance. Attached you can find a letter of support template and a board resolution template. You could also email 5th District Supervisor Efren Carrillo ([email protected]org), show your support at the Supervisor meeting or write your local newspaper.

    Please let me know if I can be of assistance ([email protected]) or 707 478 5684.

    Thank you all for your efforts and interest in this issue.

    Best Regards,


    Jacob Rich, MPH
    Community Outreach Coordinator
    Russian River Area Resources and Advocates

    (707) 478-5684

    [email protected]

    Last edited by Barry; 07-15-2015 at 03:05 PM.
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