Pushing back against protests from the vape industry and local merchants, the Sacramento City Council passed a ban on flavored e-cigarette cartridges and other flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, within city limits starting January 1, 2020.
On Tuesday, April 16, a 7-1 vote outlawed all candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarette juices such as “Gummy Bear” or “Unicorn Pop!” commonly used in vape devices and quite popular among youth.
“We’ve got really powerful testimony from members of our community who say they are being targeted, that they are disproportionately affected,” said Councilman Steve Hansen.
“Evidence has shown that flavored tobacco products lure kids into smoking tobacco,” Councilman Eric Guerra wrote SN&R in an email. “What the council is banning directly leads to addiction in children.”
The flavor ban was combined with a reform of the city’s tobacco retail licensing policy to reduce the disproportionate licensing of tobacco stores “that congregate in places where people are vulnerable,” Hansen said.
But not everyone was in favor of the ban.
“History has taught us that prohibition does not work. What does work is education,” said Councilman Larry Carr, the only “no” vote on the measure.
Local tobacco distributor Samarjit Malmi also spoke against the proposal, telling the council that tobacco stores work to keep out minors. He cited a California Department of Public Health report that found a reduction in tobacco sales to minors, from 10.3% in 2016 to 5.7% in 2017.
At Tonic Vape and Smoke on Fulton Avenue, just outside the city limits, owner Samer Mansour said the ban will penalize adults for youth behavior and the sins of tobacco companies.
“If this gentleman here wants to quit smoking, and there is a flavor ban, then the only thing I can sell him is tobacco flavor,” Mansour said as he helped a new customer who wants to quit cigarettes set up a vape unit. “Most people don’t want tobacco flavor, because they are staying away from that smell.”
Mansour pointed to his flavored nicotine bottles. “Eighty percent of our sales are this shelf, right here,” he said, arguing that banning flavors will force vape shops to close.
Sacramento’s move is part of growing national concern about the emergence of vaping.
“We didn’t predict what I now believe is an epidemic of e-cigarette use among teenagers,” former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a press release last September.
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