San Jose City Council unanimously approves ban on selling flavored tobacco products

San Jose City Council unanimously approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products. The vote came at Tuesday's city council meeting and sets up a secondary vote sometime within the next month. 

Small businesses that sell these products braced for disappointment ahead of Tuesday's vote. At Berryessa Smoke Shop, flavored tobacco products are half of the inventory and make up 80% of the shop's sales.  

City leaders, including Mayor Sam Liccardo, had argued the ban was in the best interest of young people's health and with flavors like ‘cotton candy’ and ‘saltwater taffy,' that these types of products are often marketed towards a younger demographic. 

In a statement from Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, President Matthew L. Myers wrote, "The Council’s action is the right move to stop the tobacco industry from addicting a new generation of kids and reversing the enormous progress we have made in reducing youth tobacco use."

A tobacco industry representative KTVU spoke with refuted that claim and said cities that ban all flavored tobacco products see an uptick in cigarette smoking among underage users.

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.

Myers went further, stating the ban would help address health disparities and that the tobacco industry has been predatory towards the Black community, targeting them with menthol cigarettes and that the ban is a way of combatting institutional racism. 

"Because of the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing, 85% of Black smokers now smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to less than 10% in the 1950s," Myers said in a press release. 

According to Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Tuesday's vote makes San Jose the largest city to end the sale of menthol cigarettes. 

However, the group expressed disappointment hookah was exempt from the ordinance. 

San Francisco and Oakland are among more than 100 California cities that already have a similar ban in place.

San Jose businesses now have a grace period of six months to get rid of flavored tobacco products before facing fines. The city will enforce the ban on retailers with at least one check-in per year. Fine amounts are yet to be determined. 
Bay City News Foundation contributed to this report.