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Jordan Cunningham bill would create ‘toughest anti-teen vaping policy in the nation’

Flavored e-cigarettes would no longer be sold in gas stations and liquor stores, and retailers who sell tobacco products to underage customers would face higher penalties if a bill submitted to the state Legislature on Tuesday is successful.

San Luis Obispo County’s Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham and two other legislators submitted the bill, AB 1639, which would create the what they call “the toughest anti-teen vaping policy in the nation.”

Cunningham, a Republican who represents San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties’ 35th Assembly District, announced in a news release Tuesday that he co-authored the bill with Assemblymen Adam Gray, D-Merced, and Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister.

If signed into law, the bill would:

  • Ban e-cigarette manufacturers from advertising products to children
  • Limit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to tobacco shops
  • Increase penalties for selling tobacco products to underage individuals
  • Increase penalties for individuals who provide tobacco products to underage individuals
  • Require retailers who sell tobacco products to use age verification technology
  • Ban individuals under 21 from entering a tobacco or vaping store

According to the language in the bill, a “tobacco store” is one that primarily — defined as making up at least 60 percent of annual gross revenues — sells tobacco products and related items, currently does not allow people under 21 to enter without a parent or guardian, and doesn’t sell alcohol for consumption on premises.

Currently, flavored e-cigarettes are sold in gas stations, convenience stores, and liquor stores across the state.

Under the law, those businesses would only be prohibited from selling flavored e-cigarette products, not tobacco-flavored products, and traditional menthol would not be considered a prohibited flavor, Cunningham’s chief of staff, Nick Mirman, said Tuesday.

A survey released by the National Institutes of Health in February found a dramatic jump in the numbers of teens using electronic tobacco products compared to a year prior. More than 44,000 students took part in the 2018 annual survey of drug, alcohol, and cigarette use in eighth- to 12th-graders.

About 37% of 12th-graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017. The survey included vaping of nicotine, flavored liquids, marijuana, and hash oil products.

Calling underage use of e-cigarettes an “epidemic,” Cunningham’s office said there’s been a “900 percent increase (in e-cigarette use) in just five years.”

“As a father of four, including two teenagers, I have heard firsthand stories about the spread of vaping products,” Cunningham wrote. “These statistics are hard to believe, until you hear stories from your teenage kids about their classmates using these products.”

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization on July 10.

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