San José bans flavored tobacco and smoking in apartments

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The people of San José will soon no longer be able to find menthol cigarettes or vapes with fruity, candied or menthol flavors in the stores of the city.

San Jose City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance on Tuesday evening banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, in hopes of preventing easily seduced teens from becoming addicted to nicotine. Once the measure is fully implemented, 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,” City Councilor Magdalena Carrasco said.

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 whether any changes need to be made, including whether to remove the hookah exemption.

“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.

City council was also due to vote Tuesday night on a separate ordinance proposal that would ban smoking of all kinds – including cigarettes, cigars, vapes and cannabis – inside apartments with three additional units. However, at the start of the meeting, the board decided to defer that vote until next month, citing the need to further verify the details of the proposal.

In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill banning the sale of most flavored tobacco products statewide, but the tobacco industry quickly launched a referendum campaign, which suspended the ban until voters decide to pass it in 2022. If approved, the statewide ban will replace similar city ordinances, although cities may implement more stringent regulations .

In the meantime, San Jose is joining more than 100 cities across California to pass their own bans.

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

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 he believed 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 welcome adults. “


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