(LOS ANGELES) — The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products.
The ban, which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023, ends the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
The ordinance does not ban the possession or use of flavored tobacco for those aged 21 and older.
It also exempts existing hookah lounges in the city that received tobacco retailer permits before January that sell shisha tobacco for either on-site or off-site use.
“We just took a huge step forward against Big Tobacco’s deadly agenda in Los Angeles,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who proposed the ban, tweeted Wednesday after it passed 12-0. “It’s time we put these protections in place for our youth and save lives.”
A version of the ordinance drafted last year exempted menthol cigarettes from the ban, but Black council members argued against the exemption due to high rates of menthol cigarette use among Black Americans.
Studies have found Black Americans are the most likely racial/ethnic group to use menthol cigarettes and are 25 times more likely than white Americans to do so.
“Menthol is included in this ban, as it should be,” Marqueece Harris Dawson, a Black councilman, said before the vote, according to City News Service. “It is a flavor just like every other flavor and it would have been extremely disappointing if we had said we’re going to protect people and children from uptake of tobacco, except for the flavor that we know Black people first and Latinos second use the most.”
The ordinance is now heading to the desk of Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is expected to sign it into law.
Anti-tobacco groups praised the vote and said the action will prevent children from becoming addicted to smoking and/or vaping.
“The Los Angeles City Council today took bold action to protect kids from tobacco addiction, save lives and advance health equity,” Matthew Myers, president of the advocate group Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said in a statement to ABC News. “The Council’s landmark action will help prevent the tobacco industry from addicting another generation of kids.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said any use of tobacco products by children and teenagers is unsafe, but most use begins with flavored products.
The federal health agency found that, in 2021, 80.2% of high schoolers and 74.6% of middle schoolers who reported use of tobacco products in the past 30 days said they had used a flavored tobacco product in that period.
Additionally, 85.8% of high school students and 79.2% of middle school students who reported use of e-cigarettes — the most commonly used tobacco product among youth — in the past 30 days said they used flavored e-cigarettes.
Research has shown nicotine, the addictive drug found in tobacco products, can harm a developing adolescent brain and increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders and cognitive impairment.
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