Flavored tobacco may soon be a thing of the past in San José.
On June 15, city council will consider ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-juices, hookah and menthol cigarettes.
Dr John Maa, Board Member of the American Heart Association, said that with colorful packaging with cartoon characters and flavors such as chewing gum, candy and grapes, flavored tobacco is designed to be attractive and increase tobacco use among young people.
“The tobacco industry continues to attract kids with flavored products,” he told the San José Spotlight, “and today’s youth are the next generation of smokers.
Pam Foley, San Jose council member, is leading the issue locally.
“It is important for our city to do everything in our power to ensure that our children do not become addicted to e-cigarette products,” said Foley. “It’s dangerous for the long-term health of our children.
If the city passes a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco, it would come into effect 30 to 60 days after the vote, Deputy Mayor Chappie Jones said.
According to a Santa Clara County Public Health Inquiry, nearly one in three local teens have tried e-cigarettes, and one in eight currently uses them.
The survey also found that eight in ten tobacco retailers in San Jose sell flavored tobacco products and nearly a quarter sell them to young minors.
Jen Grand-Lejano, spokesperson for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said the group wanted flavored products aimed at youth and communities of color in stores in San Jose. She said the aroma masks the harshness of the tobacco and creates a perception that it is safer.
“With 90% of adult smokers over the age of 18, it’s not a matter of choice for adults; it’s really a predatory industry that takes advantage of young people who become addicted, ”she said. “It’s the only legal product sold that, when used according to directions, kills half of its users. “
Opponents of the proposed flavored tobacco ban are worried about the drop in sales and revenue it could entail.
Cabr Albanna, owner of Smoke Shop on Camden Avenue, said he was making a small profit margin and if the ban were enforced it could destroy his business.
“I don’t know how to stay or go if they do this,” Albanna said. “It is very difficult. I pray that it is not forbidden.
A manager at another San Jose tobacco store, who asked not to be named, said city council “is going to do what it wants to do” and “doesn’t care what happens to us” .
Foley said she supports small businesses, but if the products negatively impact the health and well-being of children, the city must step in.
Jones is in favor of banning flavored tobacco, but said city council will need to consider how it will affect mom and pop minimarts and small stores.
“We just have to weigh the impact on small businesses against the social costs of selling flavored tobacco,” Jones said, noting an additional concern of whether the ban would undermine the personal choices of adults. “It’s going to be a tough decision. “
There is also the problem of the tobacco industry targeting specific communities.
Although there are tobacco retailers throughout the county, there is a higher concentration in neighborhoods with a higher percentage of low-income residents or people of color, according to the Santa Clara County Public Health.
“Menthol cigarettes are cheaper in black communities,” said Grand-Lejano. “We are also seeing tobacco use increase for some populations of Asian descent and it is not by accident.”
In California, 70% of black adults who smoke consume menthols compared to 18% of white adults, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Vanessa Marvin, co-chair of the Santa Clara County Tobacco Free Coalition, said it was high time San José took action.
“The kids will continue to get addicted every day in San Jose,” said Marvin. “There has to be a line drawn when it comes to protecting our children and our communities of color.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]