Another View: SB 24 Will Be Good For Kids

February 05, 2015

Sacramento Bee Guest Op-Ed
By Jerry Hill

In 1994, as mayor of San Mateo, I authored one of the state’s first anti-smoking ordinances. In 2012, my Assembly Bill 1301 was signed into law, requiring the state to suspend and revoke a store’s tobacco license if it repeatedly sells tobacco products to minors.

This year, I’m authoring Senate Bill 24 to ensure that vapor shops and e-cigarette stores comply with California’s youth smoking-prevention laws.

I was dismayed when I read your editorial (“Anti-vaping ads strike a blow for public health,” Feb. 2), which states that Big Tobacco has wormed its agenda into my bill and claims the fine print would effectively carve out a special legal niche for e-cigarettes, apart from other tobacco products, making them harder to include in existing anti-smoking regulations. This simply is not true.

My bill uses the existing e-cigarette definition that was established by the Legislature in 2010. It says an electronic cigarette is a device that can provide an inhalable dose of nicotine by delivering a vaporized solution. When that definition was put into law, it was not opposed by any health advocates. In fact, several health advocacy organizations supported the definition.

SB 24 takes significant steps to keep e-cigarettes away from children and to protect them from e-cigarette liquid poisonings. The bill would regulate vape shops and e-cigarette stores to ensure that they comply with the state law that has reduced youth purchases of cigarettes, the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act.

By adding e-cigarettes to the STAKE Act, the Department of Public Health would conduct stings to catch bad actors selling e-cigarettes to youths, allowing the state to levy fines and revoke licenses. SB 24 would prohibit e-cigarette advertising within 1,000 feet of schools and require e-cigarette retailers to obtain a retail license from the Board of Equalization.

Additionally, SB 24 requires child-proof packaging for e-cigarette liquids, which are poisoning an increasing number of children in California. In 2012, there were 28 calls to the California Poison Control System for liquid nicotine poisoning, and in 2014 there were 243, a dramatic increase.

At least 60 percent were for children 5 years old or younger. Children can easily open and ingest the often fruit flavored liquids, which can be toxic even if ingested in small amounts – just 1 teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be deadly.