Today at the Health & Safety Commission meeting in Beverly Hills CA the decision was made to instruct the city staff to start writing a flavor ban ordinance and to engage with local retailers and community on the issue and seek public input at a next hearing (February) at which a draft of the ordinance to prohibit the sales of flavored tobacco products will likely be presented.
The commission wants to move forward on this rapidly while covering their asses. They mentioned potential legal issues while referring to San Francisco. Which is not technically a legal issue it’s a ballot measure. They also want to make it comprehensive and cover methol, mint, everything and feel like they are some kind of leader in tobacco control.
Our item, number 6 on the agenda, was moved after item 1 after a motion was made to do so because there were quite a few folks who wanted to speak on the flavor ban item. It was nice to see the committee move on that motion. Unlike many other cities where we have wasted many hours sitting around only to have our items moved to the next week.
During the first item on the School District issues the commission chair brought up a lot of concerned parents asking about the issue of “JUULing”. It almost felt like a set-up to use another item to start the influence on the conversation about the flavored tobacco ban plan.
The LA-DPH (the folks who are approaching LA County municipalities to push for flavor bans) guy had a sticker on his shirt claiming 80% of kids that smoke started with a flavored product. Pretty much all of his presentation was typical to what we’ve been hearing over and over again for years. Long term addiction, flavors mask the harsh tobacco, flavors make it more appealing to youth, gateway effect, you name it. They found a lot of young adults “claim” that e-cigs are safer than smoking (yay! Ha!).
He immediately moved on to the menthol topic. Because, after all, that’s what they are using as the basis for flavor bans and is a veiled smokescreen, excuse the pun, to avoid conversations that revolve around vapor products and harm reduction. LA-DPH seems dismayed that the FDA has not banned menthol as a flavor. Funny how the LA-DPH guy mentioned Changelab Solutions while answering some questions. The people who received $4.1M from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to develop flavor ban model ordinances.
Interesting was that they decided to read out loud some of the letters they have received on the subject. Some of these letters were in opposition. Except of course for the ones from the African-American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, ALA, AHA, and ACS-CAN. You can read their drivel in the staff report but you’ve heard it all before.
After all that we had 14 speakers, limited to 5 minutes. Limited? That’s like heaven. Normally we get limited to 2-3 minutes or sometimes just 1 minute. Of course the vast majority of speakers were 6 in support of a flavor ban, MOST of them kids, many of them pushing specifically for a ban of menthol.
One speaker did an excellent job at outlining how many municipalities that we’ve all dealt with decided NOT to go for flavor bans and NOT make the changes to the existing TRL’s and laws, citing how many did not feel it was a priority. This to offset the rhetoric from LA-DPH and the city staff report implying that “everyone is doing flavor bans, so we should too”. The highlight of how the tax increases from the past year are increasing funding the tobacco control organizations, which is why we’re seeing such aggressive approach on flavor bans being pushed.
We did learn a few new things from our very misguided opposition. Like, getting addicted from second hand vapor and this activity known as “smoking e-pens”. Oh, and that vaping reached “popularity in 2005”.
The fight continues…