San José bans flavored tobacco and smoking in apartments

Flavored vapes or menthol cigarettes will soon be erased from the shelves of San José.

San José City Council unanimously adopted a new ordinance on Tuesday evening banning the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes and menthol cigarettes. City leaders hope the new measure will protect the city’s teens from nicotine addiction. The capital of Silicon Valley will become the largest city in the United States to ban menthol cigarettes and the largest city in California to ban flavored vapes.

“I think this is an important first step in making sure that we keep these very dangerous and highly addictive products not only out of our children’s hands but really off their radar,” said Board Member Magdalena Carrasco.

Under the new ordinance approved on Tuesday, San José’s more than 650 tobacco retailers will be banned from selling flavored vapes and menthol cigarettes. It also prohibits new tobacco retailers from opening a store within 500 feet of another tobacco store or within 1,000 feet of a school, park, community center or other. library. Tobacco retailers have until June 30, 2022 to run out of newly banned products before facing fines or other enforcement action. Despite opposition from public health and tobacco control advocates, the city chose to grant an exemption for the sale of flavored hookah.

A year after its implementation, the city plans to review the effectiveness of the ordinance and decide if any changes need to be made.

“This ordinance is not perfect, but the goal is to get it passed, take a look at it and bring back what we need in a year,” said City Councilor Pam Foley.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill banning the sale of most flavored tobacco products statewide, but the tobacco industry quickly responded with a referendum campaign, which suspended the ‘ban until voters decide whether or not to pass it in 2022. If approved, the statewide ban will replace similar municipal ordinances, although cities may implement more laws. strict.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the council heard from more than 50 residents and advocates, including teachers, doctors, teens and parents, the majority of whom have expressed strong support for the ban on flavored tobacco.

Dr Phil Gardiner, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, told the council that ending the sale of menthol cigarettes would save the lives of black residents who have historically been the target of the tobacco industry.

“It has become clear that menthol cigarettes and flavored little cigars are the main contributor to death and illness in the black community,” he said. “… This has been going on for about 30 years and you are lucky enough to stop it here.”

Heidi Garland of San Jose urged the council to “put the health of our children and our residents before the profits of the tobacco companies.”

“It’s time to stand up to the big tobacco and protect the people of San José like me, my husband and our two sons,” she said.

Alternatively, San Jose tobacco store owners and residents who vape or smoke menthol cigarettes argued that the ban was a form of “government overshoot,” adding that they believed it would lead to a “deal. black”.

Resident Jon D., who opposed the ban, compared flavored cigarettes to alcoholic fruit seltzer, calling them “a gateway to alcoholism.”

“If the ban works, how come my neighborhood looks like a war zone every fourth of July despite the fireworks ban? ” he said. “The ban will not work.”

Nam Nguyen, a tobacco store owner, said the city was targeting the wrong people with the ban, adding that teens would simply turn to the black market or online sales.

“We business owners are not the bad guys because we identify each person,” he said. “We don’t want to sell to children, we only cater to adults. “

The council was also due to vote Tuesday night on a separate ordinance that would also ban smoking – including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vapes and cannabis products – inside apartment buildings in three. units or more. The ban would not apply to duplexes, condominiums and hotels and motels. This would go beyond the old city code, which prohibited smoking only in common areas such as stairwells and hallways.

About Margaret Shaw

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