Oakland City Council bans sale of flavored tobacco

FILE - In this April 23, 2014 file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

The Oakland City Council has voted unanimously to ban selling flavored tobacco products, including menthol-flavored cigarettes.

The council's move at its meeting on Tuesday night follows similar bans approved recently in San Francisco on June 20 and in unincorporated Contra Costa County on July 12.

Other Bay Area communities that previously banned the sale of flavored tobacco include Berkeley, Los Gatos, Palo Alto and Santa Clara County, according to the American Cancer Society Action Network.

Supporters of the ban, which will go into effect in the middle of 2018, said it is needed because they believe the tobacco industry has historically targeted menthol cigarette advertisements to neighborhoods with high percentages of blacks and other minority groups.

The ban was backed by the "No More Flavored Tobacco" coalition, which comprises the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association in California, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, Breathe California and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund.

"We must do everything we can to protect young people from tobacco addiction," coalition members said in a statement.

They said, "Flavored tobacco products - including menthol cigarettes and candy-flavored e-cigarettes - are a key part of the industry's strategy to lure youth, particularly youth of color, into becoming tomorrow’s addicted users."

Coalition members said, "That means ending the sale of flavored tobacco products - which will reduce teen use and ultimately save lives – is an issue of both health and social justice."

They said, "Young menthol cigarette smokers are disproportionately African-American, Asian-American, LGBT and from low-income communities already significantly impacted by tobacco-related disease."

Coalition members said menthol-flavored cigarettes are dangerous because the anesthetizing effect of menthol makes the smoke easier to inhale and masks the harsh taste of tobacco, making it more appealing to new users.

And they said a report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that those who begin smoking menthol cigarettes are more likely to progress to a regular smoking habit and have a higher level of nicotine dependence than those who begin with non-menthol cigarettes.