San Jose is on the cusp of being the largest city in California to ban flavored tobacco citywide in an effort to reduce tobacco access and tackle tobacco addiction among teens.
This afternoon, city council members are expected to approve two separate ordinances designed to achieve that goal.
The first decree bans the sale of flavored tobacco in cigarettes and vapers, including menthol products, because it is widely used by young smokers.
If approved, it would also establish proximity limits prohibiting new tobacco retailers from opening a store within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer and within 1,000 feet of a school, a park, community center or library.
The second ordinance would extend the ban on all types of smoking, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and cannabis products, in multi-family housing complexes in San Jose.
Current city bylaws only ban smoking in common and publicly accessible areas of multi-family dwellings, but if passed, the ordinance would ban indoor smoking on sites with three or more units. . Motels, hotels, duplexes and condominiums would be exempt.
Local leaders like Mayor Sam Liccardo and members of the city council gathered on Monday to rally behind the ordinances – stressing that the bans were aimed at protecting the youth of San JosÃ©.
“We stand up for children here,” said Pam Foley, board member. “Adolescents are particularly sensitive to large-scale tobacco advertising with almost 90 percent of smokers starting at age 18 and four in five children who have used tobacco have started with flavored products.”
Foley continued that Tuesday’s vote is the culmination of years of hard work and advocacy, even before his time on city council.
In 2019, she introduced the ban on flavored tobacco products as a priority for the city, and council members agreed.
âI interviewed a dozen high school teens in a focus group about their vaping use,â Foley said. âI was frankly alarmed to learn how easy it was for these children to access not only flavored tobacco, but also these devices, even though it is illegal for them to possess them. “
In fact, a 2019 study by the Santa Clara County Health Department found that one in three teens in the county reported using an e-cigarette at least once.
Among current adolescent smokers, 82.3% reported using a flavored product.
More than 2 in 5 teens (45.4%) said they bought their own e-cigarettes, with more than a quarter of that group saying they bought them directly from a local store, county data revealed.
“These are kids who are developing their young mind and body and don’t have to risk their health by vaping,” said Magdalena Carrasco, board member.
Carrasco also pointed out that flavored tobacco products have a disproportionate impact on black and Latino youth, as many tobacco retailers are concentrated in eastern San Jose, a sentiment shared by Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and the President. from the NAACP, Bob Nunez.
San JosÃ© would not be the first municipality to adopt such a ban. More than 100 cities across the state like San Francisco and Oakland and about half of the cities in Santa Clara County already have bans in place.
California Governor Gavin Newsom also signed a bill last year to ban the sale of most flavored tobacco products. However, the tobacco industry quickly responded with a referendum campaign that suspends the ban until voters decide whether or not to pass it in 2022.
However, some studies indicate that such bans may not be as effective as supporters hope.
A 2021 study conducted by the Yale School of Public Health and published in JAMA Pediatrics found that the rate of high school students smoking conventional cigarettes doubled in San Francisco after banning the sale of flavored tobacco products in 2018.
Data from a 2019 youth risk behavior survey also found that 16% of high school students in San Francisco had used a vapor product at least once in 2019 – a 125% increase from 2017, when 7.1% of high school students in San Francisco reported using an electronic cigarette.
Still, the proposed ordinance garnered a lot of support in San JosÃ©. Supporters include Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, the county education office and several other city task forces, racial and social justice, and medical groups.
The ordinance aligns with state and federal regulations, so retailers that sell hookah or hookah-related products would be exempt from the ban. This keeps the city’s 13 hookah lounges safe for now, but more than 650 San Jose tobacco retailers will need to make the switch.
A ban on flavored tobacco products is a move 80% of tobacco retailers oppose, according to a recent city study.
However, a survey of nearly 600 registered voters in San JosÃ© found that 73% support a proposal that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco in the city and more than three in five do so “strongly”.
The order would give retailers a six-month grace period to remove banned products from their shelves. So by June 30, 2022, San Joseans wishing to purchase flavored tobacco products may have to search outside of city limits to do so.
Enforcement of the ban would target retailers rather than those with banned products.
The city will set fine amounts and intends to perform at least one annual compliance check per year.
Jana Kadah is a reporter for Bay City News.