As Santa Clarita City Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved extending a ban on new sales of flavored-tobacco products citywide, local health experts and retailers clashed on the effects the ban would have.
Dr. Darrin Privett of Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, who is set to discuss the dangers of vaping at the city of Santa Clarita’s virtual 2020 Parent Resource Symposium Wednesday, considers increased youth usage of flavored-tobacco products the new battleground for drug use in teens.
“Obviously on a national level, there is a significant increase in use among teenagers,” Privett said. “You’d hope local laws would help curb that, and hopefully, that’s exactly what it’ll do.”
The use of flavored-tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes or vapes, is extremely dangerous, especially to the developing brain of a teenager, according to Privett.
“(Vaping) lures teens into thinking it’s fun and cool, but it has nicotine in it, which is a drug that can be very addictive,” Privett added. “This leads to other addictive behaviors, like marijuana use.”
The extension of the citywide ban comes as Senate Bill 793, a new law banning the products statewide, is set to go into effect Jan. 1. The city’s ban “will preserve the status quo, until the new law takes effect,” according to city Attorney Joseph Montes.
According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which was quoted in the bill’s analysis, current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased alarmingly between 2017 and 2018, with more than 3.6 million kids reported to be using e-cigarettes in 2018.
“It’s one of the biggest marketing tactics big tobacco has on the younger generation,” Privett said. “It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
By using kid-friendly flavors, such as cotton candy and bubble gum, they’ve appealed to that younger generation, Privett added.
“Especially right now, it’s the perfect storm with this pandemic,” he said. “They’re bored at home, isolated and looking for something to break out of the situation.”
Drastic impact on sales
In 2019, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products that contain nicotine from 18 to 21, Amid Mogh, owner of Tobacco Plus Vape, which has been in business since 1995, said he was on board.
“It’s adult use only, and only people 21 and above come to the shop,” Mogh said. “Now they don’t want even those 21 and above to have the ability to access it, which doesn’t make sense.”
With the addition of the ban, Mogh said his sales would be drastically impacted.
“This would put us out of business,” he added. “They’re asking us to work with 5% of our inventory, and they want us to drop 95%, everything else.”
Mogh has seen firsthand the benefits vaporizers can have on longtime smokers.
“So many people who have been smoking their entire life feel that with vapes, they can stop smoking eventually,” he said. “It’s an option that shouldn’t be taken (from them) like this.”
An employee of another local vaporizer shop, who wished to remain unnamed, agreed, adding, “People are going back to cigarettes — that’s what they’ve been telling me. Cigarettes kill more than anything, so it’s unfortunate.”
He, too, confirmed that sales have gone down tremendously since the ban.
Though Privett acknowledged that vaping may be a viable option for longtime smokers, as they could decrease the amount of nicotine they’re exposed to, he said the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.
The 2020 Parent Resource Symposium is scheduled 6 p.m. Wednesday via Zoom or the city of Santa Clarita’s Facebook Live.