County mulls tobacco retailer’s license

Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

The Inyo County Board of Supervisors at its Tuesday meeting, heard a presentation from the county’s Health and Human Services Department regarding the regulation of tobacco product sales and requiring the licensure of tobacco retailers in Inyo County.
The proposed ordinance is aimed at tobacco use prevention by area youth, starting with vaping.
While a few tobacco retailers from Bishop voiced concerns regarding the impact an increase in price might have on older adult smokers, the board unanimously expressed support for the ordinance.
During her presentation Anna Scott, Inyo County Health and Human Services deputy director – Public Health and Prevention, said the proposed ordinance contains recommended components including:
• Ban on flavored vaping products: “It shall be a violation of this chapter for any tobacco retailer or any of the tobacco retailer’s agents or employees to sell or offer for sale, or to possess with intent to sell or offer for sale, any flavored electronic smoking device.”
• Minimum packaging: “No tobacco retailer shall sell to a consumer any little Cigar unless it is sold in a package of at least twenty little cigars; or any cigar unless it is sold in a package of at least six cigars; provided, however, that this subsection shall not apply to a cigar that has a price of at least $5 per cigar, including all applicable taxes and fees.”
• Minimum pricing: “No tobacco retailer shall sell to a consumer cigarettes at a price that is less than $8.00 per package of 20 cigarettes, including all applicable taxes and fees; Little cigars at a price that is less than $8.00 per package of little cigars, including all applicable taxes and fees; or cigars at a price that is less than $5.00 per cigar, including all applicable taxes and fees.”
Eryn Clark, Public Health and Human Services supervisor – Tobacco Control, said she works directly with youth in the community through two youth coalitions at Lone Pine High School and at Bishop Union High School. She said data that is relevant to local high schools from the California Healthy Kids survey shows that the county has about three times the state average of children who have smoked in the last 30 days.
“We’re at about 33 percent for ninth and 11th graders and the state average for e-cigarette use is about 10.9 percent. The same survey showed that the non-traditional schools such as Jill Kinmont Boothe School and Palisade Glacier High School see 53 percent of their students use vapes.
“National studies show that 80 percent of children who start smoking, and then usually go on to use a different type of tobacco product, started with a flavored tobacco product,” Clark said.
Scott pointed out that Mono County and Mammoth Lakes already have passed a ban on flavored tobacco products beyond menthol. She said federal law already bans the sale of flavored cigarettes beyond menthol.
E-cigarette (or “vaping”) companies target their marketing toward youth with candy-like flavors, according to the Inyo County Public Health and Human Services. Once they’re hooked on the vaping products, many youth move on to tobacco. Additionally, studies have shown that making tobacco more expensive by not selling small packages of one or two can prevent youth from picking up the habit.
Scott said the proposed ordinance would establish a structure for regulating tobacco products in the unincorporated areas of Inyo County. In addition to limiting youth access to tobacco products, this ordinance, while not mirroring other local ordinances, will help bring more regional consistence to tobacco regulation.
First District Supervisor Rick Pucci said while he felt for those older smokers who would be paying more for tobacco, protecting the health of area youth was a more pressing priority.
With the board’s approval of the proposed ordinance Tuesday, it also waived a second reading of the legislation. It will go before the board at 11 a.m. March 10 for enactment.