SCV responds to state ban proposal on all flavored tobacco sales

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Smoke shops in the Santa Clarita Valley have alternative options for curbing youth vaping, while local government and law enforcement officials are set to comply with state laws should a proposed ban on all flavored-tobacco sales in California take effect.

Multiple state legislatures this week introduced a bill that would halt such sales in brick-and-mortar stores of all flavored-tobacco items — including flavored e-cigarettes, traditional menthol cigarettes and menthol e-cigarette cartridges.

Senate Bill 793, co-authored by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, comes just days after the Trump administration called for a ban on the making and selling of most flavored e-cigarette cartridges, except menthol and tobacco, and would place a harsher ban on sales by outlawing all flavors.

“Flavored-tobacco products are the gateway to nicotine addiction,” said Hill in a statement. “The tastes and aromas of candy, fruit and other popular flavors insidiously entice children, teens and others into unhealthy and potentially life-threatening habits. That’s why SB 793 is aimed at getting this death bait off store shelves: No flavored tobacco products, no exceptions, regardless of the device, the delivery system, or the product.”

The ban would not apply to online sales, which would make out-of-state sales interstate commerce and more challenging to regulate.

But some Santa Clarita businesses selling flavored tobacco products said they would address concerns over youth vaping differently, starting with banning online sales.

“They should first ban online sales because that’s where most youths are getting these products because no one checks IDs online,” said Fred Zahredine, store manager at Smoke Depot and Vape Lounge in Valencia.

Other methods he suggested include increased fines and security in stores already selling or selling in 20-and-over shops only, rather than at gas stations or “places where kids buy chips and candies.”

Los Angeles County has already placed a ban in unincorporated territories, such as Stevenson Ranch and Castaic, of flavored tobacco products, to which at least one shop in Stevenson Ranch has previously stated that the outlaw affects small businesses and punishes adults who consume the products.

The city of Santa Clarita also established a ban on new sales of flavored tobacco products but will last through October based largely on health concerns, especially among youth.

A 2019 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration found that nearly one million students reported daily use and that two-thirds of students in high school who use e-cigarettes use mint or menthol flavors.

A statewide ban on flavored products could help reduce the number of sales among youth, said Travis Sabadin, intervention specialist with the SCV Sheriff’s Station Juvenile Intervention Team.

“Flavor is just advertising, which is what is attracting them,” he said. “You’d be surprised how many of them look like Gatorade packages or Sour Patch Kids candies. This could help if kids see less of it. We are getting kids that are looking into cigarettes because they think it’s safer than vaping. Anything that helps we will do.”

Similarly, Mayor Cameron Smyth said the city would work “to be in compliance with any new laws that arise,” adding that “a lot of bills get introduced in the Legislature and we will watch how that moves through.”

Local lawmakers said they were still reviewing SB 793.

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