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Health Agency | Public Health

County of San Luis Obispo

Tobacco Control Program

Tobacco Use in SLO County

Despite years of decline in tobacco use throughout the County, tobacco use continues to negatively impact many of our residents. In fact, the County as a whole, has a higher rate of tobacco use than the rest of the state. However, large differences in tobacco use persist by race/ethnicity and among population groups by socioeconomic status, educational attainment, occupation, mental health status, sexual orientation, and geography. These high-risk groups suffer disproportionately from tobacco-related illnesses. For current adult and youth tobacco use rates in SLO County, visit SLO Health Counts

Tobacco includes products such as: cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, snuff and any electronic device that delivers nicotine or other vaporized liquids to the person inhaling from the device, including, but not limited to, an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette, vape), cigar, pipe, or hookah. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product by youth. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, over 27% of high school students and over 10% of middle school students were using e-cigarettes. 

Tobacco Control Program Priorities

1. Reduce Exposure to Secondhand Smoke by Supporting Smoke-Free Environments

Secondhand smoke exposure is proven to be harmful at any level. California used to have some of the strongest laws in the nation to protect people from harmful secondhand smoke exposure. However, these state laws mostly focus on workplaces and other indoor areas. California's state-wide smoking restrictions can be found here.

Cities and counties have the explicit authority to go beyond state law and enact secondhand smoke restrictions in outdoor areas. See which cities in San Luis Obispo County have adopted comprehensive smoke-free outdoor air policies here.

Smoke-free Housing

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and those who live in apartments or condomiiums (multi-unit housing) are at greater risk of exposure to drifitng smoke from neighbors. In fact, more than 1 in 3 nonsmokers who live in rental housing are exposed to secondhand smoke! Smoke-free housing protects your health, and is a sound investment for landlords and property managers.

Currently, there are no county-wide laws that regulate smoking inside multi-unit residences. However, if you are expriencign drifting smoke from your neighbors, the Tobacco Control Program may be able to help. Please contact our office or review the FAQs below.

Tobacco-free Colleges

In recent years, the adoption of tobacco-free polocies on college campuses nationwide has seen a dramatic increase:

Learn more about Cuesta College's 100% Smoke-free program here.

Or how Cal Poly Campus Health & Wellbeing is supporting students, staff and faculty here.

2. Reduce Youth Access to Tobacco

An important aspect of reducing the smoking prevalence in our county it to reduce the availability and sales of tobacco products to minors under the age of 21.

Local tobacco retail licensing ordinances are the best means of reducing illegal tobacco sales to minors and addressing unique challenges faced by each community. Local fees help communities fund enforcement of minimum age-of-sale laws. Local level licensing laws can also help communities respond to emerging trends in the tobacco retail environment, such as the rising popularity of e-cigarettes.

A complete guide on tobacco control laws that affect retail businesses in California can be found here.

State and Local Tobacco Laws 

As of December 20, 2019, the Tobacco 21 law passed in Congress, raising the legal age to purchase tobacco (including e-cigarettes and vapes) from 18 years old to 21 years old across the United States. However, it is important to note that California has been a Tobacco 21 State since June, 2016. Additionally, the State of California includes electronic cigarettes in the definition of smoking and tobacco products.

State of California Retailer Laws:

All tobacco retailers in California must possess a tobacco retailer license issued by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA). Each retailer must apply for a 12-month license and pay an annual license fee of $265 per retail location.

Local Retailer Laws (San Luis Obispo County):

The following jurisdictions have an additional local retail license:

  • Arroyo Grande
  • Grover Beach
  • San Luis Obispo (City)
  • San Luis Obispo County Unincorporated

3. Promote Quitting Tobacco 

Efforts in this area connect community members with available local resrouces to quit their tobacco addiction, and stay quit. Telephone counseling, self-help materials, and group counseling sessions available for residents of the county. More information on quit resources for community members can be found here.

Get Involved in Local Efforts

Join the SLO County Tobacco Control Coalition (TCC) to get involved in local efforts to prevent tobacco use. Sign up for their monthly newsletter to stay up to date on local, state, and federal tobacco issues.For more information, visit the TCC website.

Resources for Schools

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Frequently Asked Questions