San Francisco and Oakland lawmakers are suggesting their cities ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, from mentholated cigarettes to flavored blunt wraps, cigars, and cigarillos. In San Francisco, the legislation would be another blow to the tobacco industry and its victims/customers, who must now pay $2 more per pack in San Francisco after the a new tax, passed in November, was enacted in April.
“For too long the tobacco industry has gotten a pass while they selectively target vulnerable populations with flavored tobacco products,” Supervisor Cohen, who is proposing the legislation in San Francisco, said in a press release. “Flavored tobacco hooks new smokers and makes them lifelong users. It can be more harmful and more difficult to quit than unflavored tobacco," Cohen continued. "Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, specifically cancers. This legislation will have a tremendous impact on the disturbing disparities for tobacco-related illnesses, and will reduce the number of new tobacco users that pick up the habit annually.”
SF Weekly points out the practice of restricting flavored tobacco sales wouldn't be completely new to the Bay Area. Berkeley bans flavored tobacco products and e-cigarette sales near schools, for example.
Mayor Lee, for one, is putting his weight behind Cohen's proposal. "That’s why they flavor it. They are trying to get vulnerable populations hooked,” Lee said according to the Examiner. “It is being hooked that brings in the profit.” If the bill makes its way through the Board of Supervisors, Lee will sign it into law, he says.
A similar push to legislate against flavored tobacco products comes from Oakland city council member Annie Campbell Washington, who was at SF City Hall in solidarity with Cohen according to the Ex. "We first took on big soda and succeeded and now we are taking on big tobacco together,” Campbell Washington said, referring to successful soda taxes passed in Oakland and San Francisco in November.
UCSF's Dr. Valerie Yerger points to the racial component of flavored tobacco product marketing and sales. “45,000 African Americans die annually from tobacco related diseases — more than police-involved shootings, homicides, AIDS, car accidents, diabetes; and all other preventable causes of death combined,” Dr. Yerger told Cohen. “Why do over 80% of Black smokers smoke mentholated tobacco products? Since the Civil Rights Era, Big Tobacco companies have perniciously targeted the African American Community with mentholated tobacco products.”
One major question that's left unclear by Cohen's press release: Whether or not flavored e-cigarettes or vape liquids would be affected by the legislation. SFist has contacted the Supervisor's office for comment and is expecting to hear back shortly. Update: A representative from Supervisor Cohen says yes, the SF ban on sale would cover everything that's a tobacco product, which according to state legislation includes e-products, not just combustible/smokable tobacco. The representative also clarifies that the law would not be a ban on possession, just on sale by local tobacco retailers.