City Council: New sales of flavored tobacco temporarily banned

City of Santa Clarita City Hall. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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New sales of flavored tobacco products in Santa Clarita are now temporarily banned amid an upsurge in popularity among the youth, following a unanimous vote by the City Council Tuesday. 

Their direction approved the adoption of an urgency ordinance that has immediately placed a 45-day tobacco retail moratorium on the sale of flavored tobacco merchandise, including electronic cigarettes and vapor products, while city staff conducts research on the effects of youth vaping and smoking, and “hits the pause button” on whether to extend the ban.

“What it (the moratorium) essentially does is hit the pause button and preserves the status quo,” said City Attorney Joseph Montes about the ordinance, adding that it “allows existing retailers to continue to retail in the city but prohibits the establishment of new retail businesses that would sell flavored tobacco products.”

At least 20 businesses across Santa Clarita already sell flavored tobacco products. 

“I think staff needs the time with that pause button to take a look at what’s really happening and get a handle on this so we can vote with all information necessary,” said Councilwoman Laurene Weste, whose comments mirrored those of the rest of the City Council. “Of course, it’s most important that we protect children and they are our future and I can’t think of anything more important than preserving their health.”

Santa Clarita’s initiative stems from an Oct. 1 vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in unincorporated areas, such as Stevenson Ranch and Castaic. The city of L.A. is considering banning all vaping devices and e-cigarettes after a report on flavored tobacco highlighted that most youth who self-reported ever using tobacco items said they started with flavored products. 

These proposals join recent efforts by state legislators and other jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, to curb a vaping-linked lung illness outbreak across the nation. 

Resident Brian Viggianelli, 30, who previously worked in the industry, said there’s significant misinformation about vaping. 

“The industry as a whole is very much in support of making sure that vaping products stay out of children’s hands,” he said. “Vaping products were made entirely for helping people get off of cigarettes.” 

Agencies such as the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said their focus is to protect children and not negatively impact businesses. 

“We don’t want to hurt the retailers here in Santa Clarita,” said SCV Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Lewis. “We want to be able to support them, as well as support the enforcement from the youth, which is one of our significant moves forward with the juvenile intervention team and making sure that we have the vaping concerns in the high schools, junior high schools and not getting down to the elementary school levels.”

At least one retailer, Smoke Zone in Stevenson Ranch, however, has expressed otherwise, saying that the government does not care for businesses. 

The matter is expected to return before the City Council within 45 days at a public hearing for council members to consider an extension of up to a year from Oct. 8. 

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