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County ranks higher than state in sale of e-cigarettes 


Electronic cigarette resembling a tobacco cigarette. Image from

In San Luis Obispo County 70 percent of stores sell e-cigarettes, including e-hookah, e-pipes, e-pen products. While the state-wide average is only 45 percent. This finding is part of new data released today on the availability and marketing of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy and healthy food products in stores that sell tobacco. Researchers say its the first time all three categories of products have been analyzed together.

The large survey collected information from more than 7,300 diverse retail stores – including convenience, supermarket, liquor, tobacco, small market, discount, drug and big-box stores – in all 58 counties, with the goal of shedding light on what products are available and promoted in our communities. Health advocates up and down the state released the survey results today, with 13 press events taking place simultaneously throughout California. Nearly 700 public health representatives, community volunteers and youth participated in the survey, which was conducted from July through October 2013.

The findings show that electronic cigarettes are widely available in San Luis Obispo County, alarming health officials and community partners. 70 percent of stores sell e-cigarettes. Statewide, the number of stores selling e-cigarettes quadrupled in the last two years, from 11.5 percent in 2011 to 45.7 percent in 2013.

“This is yet another highly addictive product that is being aggressively marketed and showing up in retail stores,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Health Officer, “San Luis Obispo County has been in the tobacco control fight since the beginning. It has been 50 years since the first Surgeon General’s report on the dangers of tobacco use, and it is still the number one cause of preventable death. Banned from TV and sponsorships, the tobacco industry is relying on the retail environment to market their deadly products. We are committed to working with retailers, partners and parents throughout San Luis Obispo to make our communities healthier. We all must be educated about how the places we shop are influencing unhealthy behaviors.”

Survey results show that over 76.5 percent of stores in San Luis Obispo County have advertising for unhealthy products on the outside of stores while only 14.7 percent have healthy advertising, such as for milk or fruit and vegetables. In San Luis Obispo County, 15.3 percent of these stores are within 1,000 feet of schools and are frequented by our kids.

“Are there any healthy options at the checkout?” asked David Clous, Tobacco Control Coalition Co-Chair. “The amount of different tobacco products in retail stores is staggering. I helped gather information for this survey and I was shocked at the sheer number of unhealthy products inside the stores. Our own children and grandchildren frequent these stores. It is not surprising that they have difficulty finding healthy choices.” The survey includes state, regional and county level data with new insights on the density of stores selling tobacco and their proximity to schools; types of tobacco and alcohol products being sold; advertising and placement of such products in stores; the availability of e-cigarettes; and the availability and promotion of unhealthy and healthy food options including low- or non-fat milk and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Survey findings in SLO County include:

  • There is a store that sells tobacco for every 183 youth in San Luis Obispo County, compared to 251 youth per store statewide
  • Only 50 percent of stores had any fruit or vegetable available
  • Alcopops which have alcohol content between 5-8% and come in kid appealing flavors were sold in 93.1% of stores that sell tobacco
  • Alcohol ads were found 60% of the time next to candy, toys or at kid level, 3-feet and below.
  • 8 percent of stores sold sugary drinks at the checkout.


About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or follow his blog.