The County Board of Supervisors chamber full of people during a meeting.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted the new ordinances at their meeting on January 14.

County Moves Forward with New Tobacco Ordinances to Protect Health

Author: Public Health Department
Date: 2/24/2020 12:10 PM

Two new tobacco-related ordinances to protect the public’s health in SLO County went into effect on February 13.

The County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed two new ordinances to protect the public, particularly youth, from the harms of tobacco. Both ordinances went into effect for all unincorporated jurisdictions in the county on February 13, 2020.

“The approval of the ordinances marks a historic and, unfortunately, necessary action to protect the health of our residents from the continued evolution of smoking,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, Health Officer of the County of San Luis Obispo. “The ordinances will further the health and well-being of our community, especially youth, by limiting tobacco and nicotine exposure in two important ways: reducing exposure to second-hand smoke and reducing availability of e-cigarette devices.”

The first ordinance expands the current prohibition of smoking on County government property to include all public areas in the unincorporated parts of the county. This decision follows a growing trend to create more smoke-free spaces that protect the community from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke, and e-cigarette vapor. Smoking in public is already prohibited in the cities of San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Atascadero, Morro Bay and Paso Robles, on campus at Cuesta College and Cal Poly and, starting this year, in all State parks and beaches.

The second ordinance bans the sale of electronic smoking devices (commonly referred to as e-cigarettes or vapes, by brand names such as JUUL). The ordinance places a moratorium on the sales of e-cigarettes until they undergo Food and Drug Administration pre-market review. During Board members’ discussion, Supervisor Debbie Arnold said: “In a society where we’re used to having oversight on things that are sold to us in retail shops, it’s kind of scary to think that these products that we’re speaking about today, have no oversight and people don’t know what they’re getting when they’re purchasing out of a retail shop or online.”

The new ordinances come in the wake of a youth vaping epidemic and recent illnesses and deaths associated with vaping. Youth vaping was declared an epidemic by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2018. At that time, 22% of eleventh graders in San Luis Obispo County reported that they regularly used e-cigarettes. Both e-cigarette sales and youth vaping rates have continued to climb since then.

In November 2019, the City of Arroyo Grande became the first city in SLO County to ban the sale of flavored and non-flavored e-cigarettes. The San Luis Obispo City Council passed a similar policy in January 2020. The Morro Bay City Council has also been considering bans on the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored products.

The Public Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program team is currently working with local tobacco retailers to ensure that all vaping products are removed from their shelves. New signage indicating “No Smoking” in public areas will be installed around the unincorporated areas of the county in the coming weeks. The team asks all residents to help spread awareness of these new policies.

For more information or details on the amended ordinances, view the Board of Supervisors meeting online or email [email protected].

The Tobacco Control Program also offers support and resources—including free Quit Smoking classes, group support, and nicotine replacement—year-round at no charge to residents.  To learn more about resources available to quit tobacco, visit