With vaping becoming a significant health concern across the country, public health officials are advising the county on new tobacco control measures they can take.
Kern County Public Health Director Matt Constantine made a presentation to the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday on steps they can take regarding tobacco control based on what other California cities and counties have done.
Earlier this year, Supervisor Mike Maggard requested a public discussion about vaping, the marketing of products to youth and possible tobacco control solutions for the county.
“This truly is the first step, to have that conversation,” said KCPH Public Information Officer Michelle Corson. “We’re gathering as much info as we can so decisions can be made by the board with as much information as possible.”
One of the options to be proposed by Kern County Public Health involves tobacco use in parks.
While the county has an ordinance that makes it illegal to use or discard a tobacco product in Rexland Acres Park and Lamont Park, the department said the county could consider expanding the ordinance to include all parks within the unincorporated areas of the county.
Los Angeles County and the City of Arvin have smoke-free parks, according to the department.
KCPH said the county could also consider banning smoking on sidewalks to reduce secondhand smoke or even take it a step further and restrict outdoor smoking in all public places.
When it comes to reducing youth exposure to advertisements of e-cigarette products, KCPH said the county has the option to enact an ordinance that would place limitations on where tobacco retailers can be located, such as no closer than 500 feet from schools, parks, churches, and other areas. The city of McFarland has implemented an ordinance to that effect.
According to Kern Public Health, as of Oct. 29 nationwide, there have been 1,888 confirmed vaping-related lung injury hospitalizations and 37 deaths. In California, there have been 144 hospitalizations and three deaths. In Kern County, there have been three hospitalizations.
The California Department of Public Health has issued an advisory recommending people to stop vaping due to health risks.
Kern County Public Health said the county could ban all vaping products or just flavored products that are appealing to kids. Los Angeles and San Francisco counties have banned flavored tobacco products and the city of Richmond is banning all vaping products starting in January.
Corson said she hopes Tuesday’s presentation will be educational for the board members and lead to more action on tobacco control.
“We’re pleased to have this discussion. We’re pleased to do some of this research because this is an issue that we’re all really concerned about,” she said. “We just hope that we’ve brought forward ideas that will be good for them to consider.”
Corson said if the board is interested in some or all of the options presented at the meeting, they could direct the department to draft up ordinances addressing these issues or to dive deeper on a specific topic.