Arroyo Grande moves to ban vaping in some public spaces



The city of Arroyo Grande is working to update its smoking and tobacco retail ordinances to include cannabis products and electronic cigarettes, the latest of a number of jurisdictions in San Luis Obispo County that are doing the same.

Arroyo Grande's City Council voted unanimously at a meeting on Aug. 13 to introduce an ordinance that would prohibit vaping and smoking marijuana in all the public spaces where tobacco is already banned, including parks, trails, pedestrian bridges, open spaces, sports facilities, and arcades.

City Attorney Heather Whitham said the ordinance would broaden the city's definition of "smoking" to include products that weren't legal or available a few years ago. It would also change the city's legal smoking age from 18 to 21, which hasn't yet been updated to meet the 2016 change in state law.

The ordinance, Whitham told New Times, shouldn't have any major impacts on tobacco retailers or residents.

"We're not intending to expand any state regulation in any way," Whitham said.

During the Aug. 13 meeting, Mayor Caren Ray Russom said that she'd like City Council to consider banning smoking in public altogether through an ordinance resembling San Luis Obispo's total prohibition of smoking in public spaces.

While a number of other cities in the county—including San Luis Obipso, Pismo Beach, Paso Robles, and Atascadero—are changing or have already updated their outdoor smoking bans to include e-cigarettes and cannabis, none have taken any real stand against the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes, according to Inger Appanaitis, program manager for the county's Tobacco Control Program.

The number of U.S. high school students who reported e-cigarette use increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. Numbers among middle school students rose by 48 percent. Many say the fruit- and candy-flavored juices that vapes and e-cigarettes use are partially to blame for their increasing popularity among teens.

While Appanaitis said roughly 35 cities and counties across the state have banned flavored nicotine products, none in SLO County have, and many city leaders are worried an all-out flavor ban could lead to legal complaints and litigation. Others are becoming increasingly interested in taking more drastic measures against vaping.

"There's been a lot of action in the Bay Area," Appanaitis said, "and the wave seems to be moving down to the Central Coast." Δ

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