City Council to consider extending the flavored-tobacco moratorium

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Nearly a year since its establishment, Santa Clarita City Council members will consider Tuesday extending a ban on new sales of flavored-tobacco products citywide until a new state law banning said items goes into effect early next year. 

A four-fifths vote would greenlight the adoption of the urgency ordinance elongating the moratorium on the establishment of new tobacco retailers that sell flavored tobacco “by an additional 12 months, or until (Senate Bill) 793 goes into effect, whichever is sooner,” according to the city agenda report. 

On Aug. 28, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the SB 793 into law, which bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes or vapes, menthol cigarettes and flavored product enhancers, but exempts hookah tobacco and cigarettes. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, marks California as having some of the most rigid laws on said items. 

SB 793 comes in the wake of increased youth usage of flavored tobacco products and 2019 reports that linked vaping to lung disease.

“Fueled by kid-friendly flavors like cotton candy and bubblegum, 3.6 million more middle and high school students started using e-cigarettes in 2018,” according to the bill analysis.

“The disturbing rates of teen e-cigarette use continued to rise in 2019 with the overwhelming majority of youth citing use of popular fruit and menthol or mint flavors. In the last two years alone, e-cigarette use among young people surged by 135% and there are now 5.3 million young Americans who use e-cigarettes regularly.” 

Opponents of the bill have argued that vaping helps adults successfully quit smoking traditional cigarettes and even a temporary ban would harm those trying to quit. Businesses selling the products in the SCV have previously argued that the law affects small businesses and punishes adults who consume flavored tobacco. Santa Clarita, which first adopted the ordinance Oct. 8 of last year and approved an extension in November to have the ban expire on Oct. 7 of this year, issued the order on grounds that it would allow officials to research the effects of youth vaping and smoking. 

The moratorium came just days after Los Angeles County on Oct. 1, 2019, imposed its own ban in unincorporated areas, such as Stevenson Ranch and Castaic, based largely on health concerns related to youth. 

The proposed extension is timely, according to City Manager Ken Striplin, who pointed to an upcoming event that informs parents of the dangers of teen vaping. 

“A poll of Santa Clarita students, in 7th through 10th grades, show that 56% of respondents know someone who has used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days,” he said. “The City is working closely with members of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station to address the use of flavored tobacco products and vapes by local students. The ordinance coming before the City Council on Tuesday night will prohibit the retail sale of flavored tobacco products in Santa Clarita until SB 793 goes into effect in 2021.”

Local health department and bike park

Council members are also expected to formally discuss the possible creation of a city-run public health department and, if deemed appropriate, approve hiring a consultant for $25,000 to conduct an analysis that would look at “different models of service delivery, scope of services provided, and potential revenues and expenses, among other factors,” according to the agenda report. 

They will also consider approving a sponsorship agreement between the city and Trek Bicycle Corp. for naming rights and financial contributions for the newly opened bike park at the Sports Complex for a total of $75,000. The agreement would generate $30,000 for the city’s general fund over the next three fiscal years and “in-kind contributions” of $45,000 toward bike park improvements for the same period. Both parties are expected to evaluate the partnership after the third year, the agenda report reads. 

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