San Jose City Council Votes to End… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
sign up

San Jose City Council Votes to End Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products; Bold Move Will Advance Health Equity and Save Lives

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
September 28, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With a unanimous vote today to end the sale of flavored tobacco products – including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars – San Jose’s City Council has taken bold action to protect kids from tobacco addiction, advance health equity and save lives. The Council’s action is the right move to stop the tobacco industry from addicting a new generation of kids and reversing the enormous progress we have made in reducing youth tobacco use.

We strongly applaud Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Pam Foley, Magdalena Carrasco, and David Cohen for their leadership in protecting the health of San Jose’s kids and promoting health equity. The Council’s action will crack down on the tobacco industry’s most pernicious tactic for luring and addicting kids – the marketing of flavored products. And it will help end the industry’s predatory targeting of Black communities with menthol cigarettes – a form of institutional racism that has taken a devastating toll on Black lives and health, is a major cause of health disparities, and must be stopped once and for all.

Once the action is final (there will be a second vote likely within a month), San Jose will become the largest city in the United States to end the sale of menthol cigarettes.

Flavored products have fueled the current epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. Nationally, 3.6 million kids use e-cigarettes, with a growing percentage of them using e-cigarettes frequently or daily – a sure sign of addiction. Here in California, 96% of high school e-cigarette users use flavored products. And though the Food and Drug Administration has in recent weeks denied marketing applications for some flavored e-cigarettes, far too many flavored products – including the most popular youth brands like Juul – remain available.

Flavored products have also long been a favorite tobacco industry strategy for targeting kids, Black Americans, the LGBTQ community and other communities. Half of all kids who ever try smoking start with menthol cigarettes. The evidence shows that menthol makes it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. Because of the tobacco industry’s predatory marketing, 85% of Black smokers now smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to less than 10% in the 1950s. Menthol cigarettes are a major reason why tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death among Black Americans – claiming 45,000 Black lives every year – and why Black Americans have a harder time quitting smoking and are more likely to die from tobacco-related diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.

In addition, cheap, flavored cigars – sold in hundreds of flavors like cherry dynamite, tropical twist and chocolate – have flooded the market in recent years and fueled the popularity of these products with kids. According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, cigars are now the most popular tobacco product among Black high school students and the second most popular tobacco product, after e-cigarettes, among all high school students.

We are disappointed that the Council exempted hookah from the ordinance. Local communities across California have passed policies that end flavored hookah sales because, like other tobacco products, there is strong evidence that flavored hookah appeals to youth. According to the CDC, using a hookah to smoke tobacco poses serious health risks to both hookah smokers and others exposed to the smoke. To best protect public health, we support comprehensive legislation that ends the sale of all flavored tobacco products in all locations.