San Leandro bans the sale of menthol cigarettes

SAN LEANDRO — San Leandro has joined several other cities in banning the sale of menthol cigarettes.

The city council on Tuesday unanimously approved the ban, which will take effect in January 2023.

“Big Tobacco is trying to squeeze every penny out of people,” Vice Mayor Pete Ballew said. “I have no problem putting up with this. … I’m proud to be the legacy that continues to support public health in San Leandro, especially for our youth and all residents.

Many spoke at the council meeting in support of the ban, including resident Dennis Ducey, who volunteers with the American Cancer Society.

“I’ve seen firsthand the damage and death from cancer and related illnesses,” Ducey said. “And as we know, tobacco is the ally of cancer. He’s doing the cancer’s dirty work of hooking up the middle school kids.

Any type of cigarette is harmful, but studies have shown that the menthol in cigarettes likely leads people to experiment with smoking and have a harder time quitting once they start, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The ban follows a trend seen in several Bay Area cities, including San Francisco and San Jose, which banned the sale of menthol cigarettes starting June 30. In 2020, Hayward and Oakland banned the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Alameda County prohibits the sale of menthol and other flavored tobacco, in the unincorporated area,

The city council’s vote follows a roundtable it hosted last year with health advocates and tobacco retailers.

San Leandro banned the sale of other flavored tobacco products in 2018.

“This mint extract makes it easier to start smoking and harder to quit,” said council member Victor Aguilar. “We should never allow a chemical specifically for a population that increases mortality, no matter who they are. … If I can save a life, I know I did my job as a public servant to push this ban forward.

Aguilar said tobacco companies often target communities of color. The Food and Drug Administration found that tobacco companies with menthol brands were targeting African Americans with magazine advertising and outdoor menthol advertisements in African American neighborhoods.

Other minority groups are also affected. The Centers for Disease Control writes that tobacco companies advertise at gay pride events and portray tobacco use as an integral part of LGBT life. According to the CDC, 36% of LGBT smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to only 29% of heterosexual smokers.

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