Solana Beach City Council bans flavored tobacco sales

Solana Beach City Hall
(File photo)

To curb the growing number of children hooked on nicotine, the Solana Beach City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Feb. 26 to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

The ordinance is pending a second reading, likely at the council’s next meeting, and would take effect 30 days later. Stores that sell tobacco products in Solana Beach would then have six months to discontinue sales of flavored tobacco.

“The statistics obviously are quite troubling with regard to the increase in tobacco use among our youth, especially with flavored tobacco products,” Solana Beach Mayor Jewel Edson said during the council’s Feb. 26 meeting.

According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention data from 2018, more than 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 14 middle school students had used a tobacco product over the past 30 days, a trend exacerbated by increased e-cigarettes and similar products. Many of them are sold in flavors that are enticing to children, such as cherry, strawberry and banana, packaged in wrappers that resemble candy.

“It clearly is no secret to any of us that the tobacco companies are targeting our youth with these flavored products,” City Councilwoman Kristi Becker said, “and they have created an epidemic of nicotine-addicted youth, my son included. We all have these personal stories.”

In the United States as of Jan. 21, the CDC reported 2,711 cases of hospitalization from lung complications caused by e-cigarettes and vaping, including 60 deaths. The CDC has also noted a decline in emergency room visits caused by e-cigarettes in vaping over the last few months, likely due to a greater public awareness of the dangers.

Two of the most severe cases in the U.S. involved a 15-year-old from Texas who became the youngest vaping-related death, and a Michigan teen who needed a double-lung transplant.

The city of Solana Beach already has prohibitions in place for smoking in certain parts of the city. The city will become part of a growing list of California localities to restrict flavored tobacco sales, including Los Angeles and San Diego counties, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.

Nine public speakers at the council meeting said they supported the flavored tobacco ban, including two high school students who said many of their classmates use puff bars or other devices.

Hazell Belvin from the American Lung Association also praised the ordinance.

“It’s an important step in preventing the increasing number of smokers in our community, especially our future generation,” she said.

Debra Schade, vice president of the Solana Beach School District’s Board of Education, said the flavored tobacco ban would have a “significant, meaningful impact on our city’s health and welfare.” She said it is similar to the recent safe storage law the City Council passed to improve firearm safety in terms of its potential to improve the local quality of life.

“Supporting and protecting our youth through significant city laws is important,” said Schade, who is also involved with the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth.