You can no longer buy flavored tobacco in San Jose

The City of San Jose is saying goodbye to selling flavored tobacco. Beginning tomorrow, retailers will no longer be allowed to sell flavored tobacco in an effort to deter young people from using it.  

City council unanimously passed the law last September.

"Eighty percent of youth say their first experience with tobacco was a flavored-tobacco product," said Cheryl Wessling, City of San Jose Public Info Manager for Planning, Building and Code Enforcement.  

Starting July 1, no one will be able to buy flavored-tobacco products like this within San Jose city limits. Based on recent studies, the city council says they made the decision to protect children and teens from being targeted.   

"You can tell by the products themselves that they’re targeting youth and children. The packaging is very colorful, the candy-flavored products, and even the prices may be lower. So we’re looking to stop the sale of that. The concern is for the health of our youth," Wessling said.  

Wessling says the city will conduct routine inspections and if caught, retailers could face a $2,500 per day fine each time it’s sold, or even have their tobacco license revoked. Still, some smoke shops say the new law could put them out of business because flavored tobacco is also popular among adults. 

"It’s a lifestyle. It’s something people do when they drink, they do when they come home, they do on their break at work and it is a much, much safer alternative to the things people were doing before that, like cigarettes and pipe tobacco," said Michael McTague, Hot Box Smoke Shop Manager.  

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Yunes Alghurbani manages the Santa Clara Smoke Shop in downtown San Jose and says flavored tobacco can be up to 60% of a store’s income. He says he too cares about children’s health but as a father himself, he doesn’t believe the new law was necessary.   

"They could charge us 5-10% of the tobacco income just to focus on education for kids. It’s bad, it’s this or something like that. But I told somebody, you know, junk food and fast food will kill my kid more than this," Alghurbani said.

"Banning the flavors doesn’t mean they’re going to stop smoking the flavors," McTague said.  

The city says it’s not telling adults that they can’t use flavored tobacco — they’ll just have to buy it someplace other than San Jose.