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Majority SLO County cities earn an F grade for restrictions on flavored tobacco products

Cigarette, Smoke, Ashtray
Posted at 6:46 AM, Jan 27, 2022

A report released by the American Lung Association shows all cities in San Luis Obispo County except one earned an F grade for restrictions on flavored tobacco products.

Morro Bay earned a “D”.

"To see the letter D grade come back is shocking," said Morro Bay City Manager, Scott Collins.

City manager Scott Collins says they’ve worked hard to bring the grade up, but there was no change from last year.

He says the city placed a ban on indoor and outdoor smoking in most public places, created a tobacco retail license program and came up with money for enforcement.

But retailers can’t agree on whether menthol is a flavor aimed at kids or adults.

"They disagree with the findings that menthol is sort of a flavor of choice for kids. It's the other kind of flavors that really draw kids into vaping," said Collins.

Allowing the sale of menthol flavored tobacco products is what earned most of San Luis Obispo County a failing grade. While the city of San Luis Obispo bans menthol and mint vaping products, that ban does not extend to tobacco.

"We had the most strict ban in the county so far," said San Luis Obispo Mayor, Erica A. Stewart.

And there is no plan to expand the ban in the future.

"Not at this time. It's not on the agenda forecast," said Stewart.

Some cities in San Luis Obispo County fared much better in the reducing sales of tobacco products category. Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo all received an A.

And in Santa Barbara County multiple cities received an A, including Carpinteria, Guadelupe and Santa Maria.

Retailers have long argued menthol tobacco products have a long history and shouldn’t be banned. Most cities restrict menthol vaping products but not tobacco.

Collins says the exemption for menthol cigarettes shouldn’t have that much of an effect on the grade.

"Again, to get a D grade just because of one exemption doesn't make sense," said Collins.