The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors today gave final approval, 5-0, on the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS-300.832), the final of three new ordinances for tobacco control that will require licensing of tobacco retailers, ban smoking inside multi-unit residences and strengthen other protections against secondhand smoke.  

The three comprehensive measures include two adopted November 9, 2010: the Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance (No. NS-625.5) and the Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance (No. NS-625.6). Together, these measures make Santa Clara County a leader in the nation in preventing youth tobacco use and protecting residents from secondhand smoke.  

“The residents of this county deserve strong policies to safeguard their health,” said President Ken Yeager, who brought the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors.  “These ordinances make Santa Clara County a national leader in blocking tobacco sales to minors and protecting residents from secondhand smoke.”

Santa Clara County’s Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance, the final of three ordinances, will require all retailers in the unincorporated areas of the County to obtain and maintain an annual permit to sell tobacco products. Retailers would pay a one-time application fee and an annual fee to recover the costs of administration and enforcement of the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance. A similar retail permit measure is being considered by the City of San Jose.

On October 19, the Board postponed the second reading of the Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance until today so that staff could conduct additional outreach to retailers in the unincorporated areas.  The ordinance will become effective in 60 days; however, the County will delay enforcement of the provision prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products for an additional 30 days to look at potential impacts on cigar and pipe tobacco products. Because of the higher cost of these products, they are less likely to be accessible by youth.   

The County will cover the application fee of $340 for existing tobacco retailers lawfully operating in the unincorporated areas of the County. All tobacco retailers, new and existing, will be subject to the $425 annual permit fee.

The ordinance also will ban any new retail outlets in the unincorporated areas of the County from selling tobacco if they operate a pharmacy or are located within 1,000 feet of a school or within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer.

The County’s Smoking Pollution Control Ordinance protects non-smokers from secondhand smoke exposure while in public.  Under the measure, smoking is banned at the County Fairgrounds and at all County parks.  More protections against secondhand smoke in workplaces in the unincorporated areas of the County will also be put in place.  Smoking is prohibited in, and within 30 feet of, any outdoor service area, such as a ticket line or the outdoor portion of a restaurant, in the unincorporated areas. Additionally, motels and hotels in unincorporated areas will become entirely smoke-free facilities.

“Ten percent of the kids in Santa Clara County are smoking cigarettes. It’s been too easy for underage youth to walk into a retailer and purchase tobacco products. We know that once these young people begin smoking, they are likely to continue into adulthood and thus increase their risks to premature death from heart disease, stroke and cancer,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Health Officer of Santa Clara County.  “Retail licenses are a proven deterrent to youth access to cigarettes. Keeping youth from ever starting to smoke is far easier than trying to get them to quit.”

The Multi-Unit Residences Ordinance bans smoking in the common areas of all multi-unit residences in the unincorporated areas.  Furthermore, the ordinance will ban smoking in all units of apartments, condominiums, and townhouses. The ordinance allows for setting up designated smoking areas for multi-unit residences provided that they are in unenclosed areas that are at least 30 feet away from operable doors, windows and other openings into enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.

Funding for public education about the new ordinances will come out of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  In addition to other educational efforts, the funding will also be used to advocate similar, comprehensive tobacco control policies in Santa Clara County cities.