To keep tobacco and vapor products out of the hands of youth under age 18, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors last year adopted an ordinance that requires all tobacco and vapor products to be placed, stored and displayed in a manner that is inaccessible to the public without employee assistance in a retail setting.
The ordinance amends a previous Coconino County ordinance that pertained only to tobacco products to include all vapor products, e-cigarettes, electronic smoking devices and e-cigarette liquid.
By requiring employee assistance to buy tobacco and vapor products, the retail employees are reminded that they need to ask the customer for age verification. (The ordinance does provide an exemption for 18 and older facilities, such as tobacco and vapor shops, that require photo ID for entry.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 90 percent of smokers who use conventional cigarettes become addicted to nicotine before they turn 18. Vapor products are a relatively new nicotine delivery system, and the national rates of use by youth have skyrocketed from two percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2015.
Vapor products are often directly marketed to young people with colorful packaging and enticing flavors such as cotton candy and sour apple. Although the vaping industry claims the products are “harmless,” research shows that the released vapor contains chemicals that are known to cause cancer. Research also suggests that youth who use vapor products are more prone to future use of combustible tobacco products, such as cigarettes.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently deemed e-cigarettes as tobacco products. Previously, the FDA regulated cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, or chew. With the adoption of the new rule, the definition of tobacco products was expanded to include cigars, hookah and pipe tobacco, and all electronic nicotine delivery products and e-cigarette liquids. The new rule imposes national age restrictions of 18 and older on the sale of tobacco products, and prohibits the distribution of samples and vending machines that contain tobacco products.
The FDA does not, however, regulate the placement of the newly deemed tobacco products in a retail setting, as it does with cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. So county officials decided that there was a need for the Coconino County ordinance.
Coconino County Public Health Services District has been working with the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, and the Coconino County Attorney’s Office since 2015 to amend the ordinance to include vapor products. The ordinance took effect on Jan. 15, 2016, and will apply to unincorporated areas of the county. Cities and towns in the county have the opportunity to “opt in” to the ordinance. To date, Flagstaff City Council and Williams City Council have done so.
The Public Health Services District strives to improve the quality of life for all members of our communities by providing a variety of services that prevent epidemics and the spread of disease as well as promote healthy lifestyles for individuals and families.
As part of this mission, the county can help tobacco users quit the habit. We all know the costs to budgets and health that tobacco use can cause. Tobacco use can lead to serious health issues and quitting can be one of the hardest addictions to break, but it’s not impossible.
I encourage you to use the resources available to quit, and to spread the word. A new year brings a sense of renewal and a reason for smokers to resolve to quit. Once you’re ready to quit, call 800-55-66-222 or visit ASHLine.org or call the Coconino County Public Health Services District Tobacco and Chronic Disease Prevention Program at 928-679-7266. FBN
Cynthia Seelhammer, ICMA-CM, is the manager of Coconino County.