Oakland Votes to End Sale of All… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Oakland Votes to End Sale of All Flavored Tobacco, Eliminating Loophole Tobacco Industry Exploited

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
May 12, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oakland’s City Council today took an important step to protect the health of its kids by unanimously (8-0) ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products at all locations with no exemptions. This action – which covers flavored e-cigarettes, cigars and menthol cigarettes – is the right move to reverse skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes and stop tobacco companies from targeting and addicting kids with flavored products. It also couldn’t come at a better time as health experts are warning that smoking and vaping can worsen the effects of COVID-19. It’s more critical than ever to keep our lungs healthy. This measure is necessary to prevent flavored tobacco products from addicting a new generation of kids and reversing the enormous progress we have made in reducing youth tobacco use.

Oakland was one of the first cities to prohibit most sales of flavored tobacco products when it acted in 2017. But its exemption for so-called adult-only tobacco stores created a loophole that the tobacco industry has shamelessly exploited. While just a handful of such shops existed before the law, more than 55 currently operate in the city, with some of these “adult-only tobacco stores” simply being walled-off areas in a store or gas station.

There is no time to waste as the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gone from bad to worse. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (2019 NYTS), e-cigarette use among high school students nationwide increased to 27.5% in 2019 compared to 11.7% in 2017. Altogether, more than 5.3 million middle and high school students now use e-cigarettes. The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic – 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use.

Flavored products have long been a favorite tobacco industry strategy for targeting kids. In addition to e-cigarettes, flavored cigars have proliferated in recent years and become popular with kids, while more than half of youth smokers – including seven out of ten African-American youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Oakland’s law helps put an end once and for all to the tobacco industry’s long and harmful history of targeting kids and African Americans with menthol cigarettes. The city of Los Angeles, the state of California and others should follow suit by also ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products with no exemptions.

The Oakland City Council also voted to prohibit the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies, provide stronger compliance and enforcement of the law prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, and clarify that the law penalizes retailers who violate the law and does not penalize youth for possession, use or purchase of tobacco products.