The use of flavored tobacco, electronic cigarettes and vaping in public are temporarily banned in Carpinteria.

The Carpinteria City Council unanimously passed an urgency ordinance Tuesday immediately banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, e-cigarettes and liquids, pods, juices or other products used in vaping devices.

It also prohibits using these products in public areas in Carpinteria.

The moratorium will last for an undetermined amount of time, City Manager Dave Durflinger said.

The council likely will see a draft ordinance establishing permanent regulations in the future. Adopting a temporary prohibition allows time for city staff to better prepare and consider options, while taking a conservative position effective immediately.

City leaders said the interim ban is necessary to protect public safety and health, citing fears that products have the potential to get adolescents hooked on nicotine and the surge of smoking-related injuries and deaths.

“We have abundant evidence there are health problems that reinforce the need for an emergency ordinance,” Vice Mayor Al Clark said. 

According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased alarmingly between 2017 and 2018, with more than 3.6 million kids using e-cigarettes in 2018.

As of last week, there have been 2,051 lung injuries linked to e-cigarette or vaping products reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 49 states (except Alaska), the District of Columbia and one U.S. territory.

Thirty-nine deaths were confirmed in 24 states and the District of Columbia, the CDC said last week.

National studies have shown youth are particularly vulnerable to flavored tobacco and evolving tobacco delivery systems. Some exotic and sweet-smelling flavors, such as candy, appeal to kids, Clark said. 

“Those things are hooking kids on poison,” Clark said.

The Carpinteria Unified School District is “thrilled” with the City Council’s decision, and supports a step toward permanently banning e-cigarettes and vaping, Superintendent Diana Rigby said. Vaping is a community health issue, she added.

“We do all the education, and we also make sure the behaviors don’t occur on campus, but they spend most of their time away from us,” Rigby said of students.

An increase of students vaping started about three years ago, Rigby said. The district then began educating students and parents on the harms of vaping, and teaching students about the potential dangers in health classes, as well as hosting speakers, working with Santa Barbara County resources and offering a variety of parent education classes.

Vape detectors have been installed in school bathrooms.

“We saw an increase three years ago, and now we are seeing a decrease,” Rigby said of student vaping, mentioning that widespread news coverage about illness and deaths affecting youth users also is changing some student behaviors. “We do not tolerate any vaping or smoking on campus, and we expect our youth to be well educated.”

There are 14 retailers in Carpinteria selling tobacco products, according to a city staff report.

A few family owned business and market owners voiced opinions during the public comment period. Those speaking supported community safety requirements, but also the need to sell the current stock or losing money in sales.

“While this ordinance is meant with the best of intentions, it’s unnecessarily burdensome for your stakeholders, and is largely based on out-of-date or erroneous information,” said Courtney Hamilton, California Association of Responsible Retailers representative. “There are better alternatives to full bans that are just as effective and do not burden your stakeholders and limit the rights of adult tobacco users.”

Councilman Roy Lee in June suggested city leaders address the issue of teenage nicotine addiction and flavored tobacco products.

He supports giving business owners a certain amount of time to sell their remaining inventory. 

“They have stated they have inventory or they will lose money,” Lee said at Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s important to listen to them.”

Councilman Fred Shaw rejected Lee’s idea because he wants to be proactive and take steps to protect residents, especially the younger population.

Carpinteria needs to respond to a public health emergency, he said.

“The research is overwhelming,” Shaw said, adding, “One more young person or one person, in general, hooked on tobacco or any form is a problem.” 

Several other California cities and counties have recently taken action against the sale of flavored tobaccos, e-cigarettes and other smoking products.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order aimed at combating the vaping epidemic in youth and vaping-related health risks.

Carpinteria’s first law restricting smoking was adopted in 1985, according to the city

The city clamped down on smokers in public parks and beaches in 2004. 

In 2011, Carpinteria began an ordinance restricting smoking in all public places.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.