Following the mounting trend of government agencies seeking to stem the rise of flavored tobacco use, particularly among children, Burlingame officials favored banning sales of the products.
The Burlingame City Council unanimously agreed, with Councilwoman Ann Keighran recusing herself, to disallow sales and deliveries of flavored tobacco products as well as nicotine cartridges, according to video of the meeting Monday, Sept. 16.
The decision positions Burlingame alongside the growing number of cities in San Mateo County where sales of the products are banned, as local officials seek to tamp down a spike in vaping which some believe is reaching epidemic levels.
“I share concerns that this is the beginning of a true crisis and a crisis that we will be paying for with our kids and our health care system for decades,” said Councilman Michael Brownrigg.
Under the decision, Burlingame officials largely followed a model established by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which previously voted to bar sales in unincorporated parts of the county. Keighran recused herself from voting because she worked with Supervisor David Canepa on the county policy.
Brownrigg though suggested Burlingame go a step further to disallow deliveries as well. The proposal gathered support of his fellow councilmembers, who directed City Attorney Kathleen Kane to examine whether such a policy is possible. No decision was made at the meeting, and the issue will return for further discussion later.
For his part, Brownrigg suggested the delivery ban is an important step toward assuring the potentially dangerous products do not fall into the hands of children.
Pointing to an increase in vaping among students at local schools, Brownrigg said he favored the most stringent regulation possible to safeguard children from the threat of nicotine addiction.
“I think all those kids in our high school and middle school are getting those products from somewhere,” he said. “They are clearly not buying them in stores and I don’t think they should be delivered to people’s homes, so I’d like to advocate for including a ban on online sales.”
The decision arrived on the same day state lawmakers announced a decision to spend $20 million on an awareness campaign addressing the dangers associating with vaping nicotine and marijuana.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the decision Monday, following a recent spread of vaping illnesses. Many of those cases are associated with vaping unregulated marijuana products, but some have been linked to nicotine. President Donald Trump also recently directed federal agents to consider regulating the industry, but the potential policy repercussions of such an order remain unclear. New York officials banned the sale of electronic cigarettes as well.
For her part, Kane said the direct health threats posed by vaping are yet to be determined. But studies are showing that the products are growing in popularity with children, posing challenges associated with nicotine addiction.
“What is fairly uncontroverted is that a large number of young users are using vaping products and that those numbers appear to be increasing,” she said. “The trend line is quite significant.”
Considering the mounting evidence that the products are dangerous and pervasive among children, Councilman Ricardo Ortiz said he received more than enough evidence to feel comfortable banning sales locally.
“It just seems like what was already an easy decision has become easier with everything we’ve seen in the news,” he said.
Mayor Donna Colson acknowledged officials may face challenges in effectively enforcing the policy, but balanced that perspective by noting the effort to ban the substances will likely be received enthusiastically by residents.
“I think many, many parents will be excited to hear that is going to be considered,” she said.
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