Business owners concerned San Jose may ban flavored tobacco sales

San Jose could be the next city to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products. On Tuesday, city leaders are set to vote on the strict new ordinance. The ban could affect hundreds of retailers.

City leaders said it is for the health of young people, who find these products enticing. Opponents said it could actually increase teen smoking and hurt small businesses.

Flavored tobacco products make up half the inventory at Berryessa Smoke Shop in San Jose and 80 percent of sales. Soon, popular disposable, Juul and tobacco products could be gone from store shelves.

"If I can't, as a 28-year-old go and buy something that I want to use that the city wants to take away, I personally don't like it," said Zabi Naeemi, manager at Berryessa Smoke Shop.

"It is so important that cities throughout the country step forward with efforts like this to protect our young people," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Ahead of Tuesday’s San Jose city council meeting, the mayor and four council members voiced support on banning flavored tobacco products, including menthol. They said, too often it lands in the hands of teens.

"Cotton candy and saltwater taffy are flavors inside a candy store but sadly they are popular e-cigarettes as well," said San Jose City Councilmember Pam Foley.

"The tobacco industry has a strong hold on our kiddos enticing them with flavors leading them with a life of addiction," said San Jose City councilmember Magdalena Carrasco.

The ordinance would prohibit new stores, that sell flavored tobacco, from popping up within 1,000 feet of schools and 500 feet of an existing retailer.

 "Three studies recently have found that cities that banned all flavored tobacco products, including San Francisco, underage youth reverted to cigarette smoking," said Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets.

Briant is with the National Association of Tobacco Outlets representing 65,000 retail and convenience stores and gas stations.

He said a ban will not stop teens from getting products from older friends, family members, possibly the black market.

He supports waiting for a FDA or statewide ban to level the playing field. He said people will drive to the nearest city that sells it.

"Instead of taking it away, punish the ones that are selling to these kids," said Naeemi.

As for Berryessa Smoke Shop, locally owned, the manager worries he could lose his job and the store might close down.

"Hopefully, knock on glass nothing happens," said Naeemi. "They don't pass it. It doesn’t go through and we can still sell it but yeah, if they do pass it, then it’s not going to be pretty."

More than 100 cities in the state including San Francisco and Oakland have a ban. If it passes Tuesday, businesses will be given a grace period of six months to get rid of flavored tobacco products before facing fines.

Azenith Smith is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Azenith at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @AzenithKTVU or Facebook or