Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sonoma, CA - Local Alert: Licensing and likely indoor use and flavors affected by proposed ordinance.

Sonoma, CA

(Update - 05.16.15)

An ordinance that would redefine “tobacco products” to include “electronic smoking devices” has been introduced in the Sonoma City Council. This ordinance would require vapor retail shops to acquire a tobacco dealer license. The ordinance goes on to stipulate that there are only 15 locations in the City of Sonoma (Section 7.25.020 (4)(a)) that are authorized to operate as tobacco retailers. None of these existing retailers operate as dedicated vapor shops. In essence, this ordinance is a de facto ban on the establishment of any new vapor retail shop.  Moreover, as written, the licensing requirement would prohibit the sale of “flavored tobacco products” other than tobacco and menthol.

Not only does this ordinance inappropriately label smoke-free, tobacco-free vapor products as tobacco, but it will prohibit the sale of flavored e-liquid other than tobacco or menthol.

Please make plans to attend this hearing.  Even if public testimony is not scheduled to be heard, a showing of opposition sends a powerful message.

Community Meeting Room
177 First Street West
Sonoma, CA

Please also take a moment to send emails and make phone calls to members of the city council.  Contact information and additional talking points are listed below.

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(Original Post - 03.08.15)

An ordinance that would require tobacco retailers to acquire a “tobacco retailer’s license” in the City of Sonoma will likely be introduced on MONDAY, March 16 at 6:00 PM.
Community Meeting Room
177 First Street West
Sonoma, CA

We anticipate this ordinance will, among other things:
  • Redefine “Tobacco Products” to include “any product that contains tobacco, is derived from tobacco, or contains synthetically produced nicotine and is intended for human consumption,” thereby requiring vapor retailers obtain a “tobacco retailer’s license.”
  • Prohibit indoor use inside vapor shops and possibly other public places.
  • Place restrictions on flavors.
  • Set a density limit of 1 license per 1000 inhabitants of the city.
  • Require retailers to be at least 500 ft away from another tobacco retailer.

Consumer Impact:
  • Prohibiting indoor use in vapor retail shops impacts sampling and demonstration of vapor products.
  • It is possible this ordinance will include restrictions on flavors.
  • Density and proximity restrictions (1) favor traditional cigarette retailers (and cigalikes sold by the large tobacco companies since they are sold in venues that already have tobacco licenses) and (2) limit adult awareness of smoke-free vapor products.  Consumer access to the variety of vapor products is also impacted.
  • Treating low-risk, smoke-free vapor products like traditional cigarettes sends a confusing message to consumers that these two very different products pose similar risks and will likely discourage smokers from switching to a safer alternative.

Please make plans to attend this hearing.  Even if public testimony is not scheduled to be heard, a showing of opposition sends a powerful message.

Please also take a moment to send emails and make phone calls to members of the city council.  Contact information and additional talking points are listed below.

Sonoma, CA - City Council
Madolyn Agrimonti
Gary Edwards
Rachel Hundley
David Cook
Laurie Gallian
(Mayor Pro Tem)

Comma delimited email list:,,,,

Sugested Talking Points - Flavor Ban

  1. We know from a recent surveys that adults prefer flavors other than traditional tobacco and menthol (, (

  1. Flavors are an important aspect of vapor products as they help former smokers disassociate nicotine consumption from inhaling smoke.

  1. Prohibiting flavor options creates a barrier to becoming smoke free and, as a result many, adult residents will actually be encouraged to continue smoking instead of making the switch to a product that is estimated to be 99% less hazardous than smoking.  

Suggested Talking Points - Indoor Use
  • (Please choose a few of the points below -- topics you are most comfortable discussing.)

  1. You are a resident and you oppose banning e-cigarette use where smoking is prohibited. (If you are responding to a Call to Action or Local Alert for a city or state in which you are not a resident, please mention any connection you have to the area, for example, you travel there on vacation or have friends/family in the area.)

  1. Tell your story on how switching to an e-cigarette has changed your life. (Avoid using slang terms such as "juice.")

  1. Clarify that:
    1. Smoking bans are ostensibly enacted to protect the public from the harm of secondhand smoke, but e-cigarettes have not been found to pose a risk to bystanders. In fact, all evidence to date shows that the low health risks associated with e-cigarettes are comparable to other smokeless nicotine products.
    2. The low risks of e-cigarettes is supported by research done by Dr. Siegel of Boston University, Dr. Eissenberg of Virginia Commonwealth, Dr Maciej L Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Dr. Laugesen of Health New Zealand, Dr. Igor Burstyn of Drexel University, and by the fact that the FDA testing, in spite of its press statement, failed to find harmful levels of carcinogens or toxic levels of any chemical in the vapor.
    3. A comprehensive review conducted by Dr. Igor Burstyn of Drexel University School of Public Health based on over 9,000 observations of e-cigarette liquid and vapor found "no apparent concern" for bystanders exposed to e-cigarette vapor, even under "worst case" assumptions about exposure.
    4. Electronic cigarette use is easy to distinguish from actual smoking. Although some e-cigarettes resemble real cigarettes, many do not. It is easy to tell when someone lights a cigarette from the smell of smoke. E-cigarette vapor is often practically odorless, and generally any detectable odor is not unpleasant and smells nothing like smoke. Additionally, e-cigarette users can decide whether to release any vapor ("discreet vaping").  With so little evidence of use, enforcing use bans on electronic cigarettes would be nearly impossible.
    5. The ability to use electronic cigarettes in public spaces will actually improve public health by inspiring other smokers to switch and reduce their health risks by an estimated 99%.
    6. Losing the ability to test e-liquids before purchasing will have a significant and negative impact on your ability to purchase/sell e-liquids.
    7. Many smokers first try e-cigarettes because they can use them where they cannot smoke, however, they often become "accidental quitters." This is a documented phenomenon unique to e-cigarettes. It may take a few months or only a few days, but they inevitably stop smoking conventional cigarettes. This is why including e-cigarettes in smoking bans could have serious unintended consequences!
    8. By making e-cigarette users go outdoors, the City will also be sending a strong message to traditional smokers that e-cigarettes are no safer than smoking. This will actually maintain the number of smokers, rather than help reduce smoking. This is a far more realistic risk to public health than any unfounded concerns about possible youth or non-smoker use uptake. In fact, the most recent report by the CDC showed that the dramatic increase in e-cigarette use over that past 3 years has not led to an increase in youth smoking. Youth smoking of traditional cigarettes continues to decline to record low levels.
    9. The children of smoking parents are far more likely to become smokers than the children of non-smoking parents who see smoking behaviors in public. The children of smoking parents who quit aren't any more likely to smoke than those of non-smoking parents. Prohibiting vapor products in public does little to protect the children of non-smoking parents from becoming smokers, but significantly increases the likelihood that many smoking parents won't switch to e-cigarettes. This only serves to keep the highest-risk children at risk.
    10. E-cigarette use does not promote the smoking of traditional cigarettes, nor does it threaten the gains of tobacco control over the past few decades. In fact, by normalizing e-cigarette use over traditional smoking, the efforts of tobacco control are being supported. If anything, e-cigarette use denormalizes conventional smoking by setting the example of smokers choosing a far less harmful alternative to traditional smoking. The CDC surveys clearly show that there has been no "gateway effect" causing non-smokers to start smoking. As e-cigarettes have become more popular, all available evidence is showing that more and more smokers are quitting traditional cigarettes, including youth smokers.
    11. Important Note: A typical and frequent lawmaker response to e-cigarette users who object to public use bans is "We aren't banning all use or sales, just use where smoking is also prohibited." Don't give them the opportunity to counter you in that way! Make it very clear that you understand that this is not a ban of e-cigarette sales or a ban of e-cigarette use where smoking is allowed, but that what IS proposed is still a step backward in public health, not a step forward.

4) Direct them to the website, as well as the CASAA Research Library, for more information.

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