SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In an effort to crackdown on the rise of teenage vaping, Sacramento City Council voted 7-1 Tuesday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products beginning the January 1, 2020.
The ban will impact the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges and other products that contain nicotine but hide it behind sweet or fruity flavors. Like cigarettes, the age to buy flavored tobacco products is 21 in California. But the ban will make it so shops cannot sell flavored products to anybody — not just people under 21.
City officials and backers of the ban argue that the often fruit-flavored products target teenagers. But vaping companies and business owners say a ban will prevent adults the opportunity to ween of cigarettes and force the stores that sell them to make less money and possibly close down.
Several cities across California have already banned the sale of it, and there's an initiative to ban it throughout the entire state.
Vaping with flavored tobacco and similar products have become a really big thing over the years as people try to back off of the consumption of cigarettes. There are more than 15,000 tobacco flavors on the market, with the Bay Area-based company Juuls being one of the most popular.
In an email to consumers ahead of Sacramento's vote, Juuls said its main purpose is to help people stop smoking cigarettes — offering a healthier alternative instead.
The idea that vaping is healthier is still yet to be proven. According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, vaping does expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes. But it still contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and considered a toxic substance.
Plus, because flavored tobacco products are still largely unregulated, researchers don't quite understand the harmful effects of other chemicals involved in vaping.
But people against flavored tobacco say that these fancy flavors have been marketed towards youth and have essentially become a "starter" product to get kids hooked on tobacco early. That argument isn't new in the fight against tobacco companies.
In 1997, the Federal Trade Commission charged R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the makers of Joe Camel cigarettes, with illegally tailoring its advertisements to entice minors who can't legally buy the product. R.J. Reynolds ultimately agreed to a $10 million settlement over the now-defunct advertisement.
The percentage of american adults who smoke continues to shrink, but youth tobacco use is on the rise. According to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3.6 million high school and middle school students in the U.S. are vaping — about 570,000 middle schoolers and 3.05 million high schoolers.
Should flavored tobacco be banned entirely? Sacramento aside, it's a nationwide debate that's not going to end any time soon.
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Editor's Note: This story has been updated to add context to the news of Sacramento banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.