The Pasadena City Council and the Pasadena Board of Education in a joint session unanimously moved Monday to snuff out the rise in sales of flavored e-cigarettes and mentholated tobacco cigarettes in Pasadena.
The vote will eliminate the sales of flavored vapes as well as menthol-flavored cigarettes citywide.
The action was the most prominent of several agenda items for both boards to consider in the annual joint meeting of the two governing bodies, which ended just before midnight.
The new ordinance, once finalized, will “prohibit the sale and distribution of mentholated cigarettes and/or other flavored tobacco products, including flavored products for electronic smoking devices (“ESD”), such as ESD liquids, flavored little cigars, and tobacco look-alike products,” according to a Pasadena Health Department staff report.
The motion also directs the City Attorney to modify the city’s Municipal Code to align with current state and federal definitions related to tobacco products, tobacco paraphernalia, tobacco use, and age identification requirements and tobacco sales.
The PUSD board, having no actual enforcement powers, unanimously passed a resolution to “support the City of Pasadena’s action to reduce or eliminate the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol, to prevent further premature death by using tobacco products and emerging tobacco products such as e-cigarettes (vaping), and encourages and supports neighboring cities and counties to adopt and enforce strong tobacco retailer licensing ordinances, including compliance checks and enforcement, and suspension for violations of tobacco laws, in· efforts to further reduce illegal tobacco sales to minors and promote compliance with all local, state and federal tobacco laws.”
Pasadena joins more than 50 cities in California and 250 across the nation which have passed similar legislation to discourage smoking in children, teens and adults. According to the Public Health staff report, the rates of e-cigarette usage is high compared to other substances among Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) students according to the California Department of Education.
A California Healthy Kids survey (2014-2015; 2017-2018) found that PUSD 11th grade students are five times as likely to have ever used an e-cigarette compared to a traditional cigarette.
More than a dozen community speakers in the packed Council chambers spoke on behalf of the new ordinance, as they implored the Council to pass the new laws.
Caleb Shakirian showed the school board and the Council brightly wrapped packages of ‘Vape fuel,” clearly designed to attract young teens.
“These are not for adults,” he said, as he displayed various packages of products labeled, “Killer Kustard Strawberries,” “Candy King,” “Sweet and salty Berries,” and “Birthday Shake.”
Another dismayed speaker said her 11 year-old, sixth-grade sister had just discovered vaping.
In her presentation to the Council and PUSD Board, Pasadena Director of Public Health Director Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, noted that many young African-Americans smoke menthol-flavored cigarettes, and without those flavors, “would not smoke at all.”
Council member John Kennedy amended the new updated ordinance to double the fines —from $250 to $500–for retailers who sell tobacco products to underage buyers. Those fines would also double for a second offense, and would become a misdemeanor after the third violation.
Such was the strong feeling among the Council and PUSD Board that Council member Margaret McAustin asked the Council to also consider banning, sooner than later, all tobacco products in the City.
Council member Tyron Hampton asked about the possibility of also banning the sale of flavored cannabis products in the City. City Attorney Michelle Bagneris said that that matter could be taken up at a later meeting.
According to the Public Health staff report, more than 50 communities in California and 250 throughout the nation have taken formal action to discourage children, teenagers, and young adults from smoking. The emphasis of these actions has been on new and emerging flavored and menthol tobacco products, the report noted.
“Proposed staff recommendations will limit access to specific tobacco products by children, teenagers, and young adults,” said the report.
As of January 14, 2020, a total of 2,668 hospitalized E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported to the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two US territories (Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands). Sixty deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and the District of Columbia.
According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), the vast majority of teenagers say their first use of a tobacco product was flavored. A “flavored tobacco product” is defined as any tobacco product that contains a component that imparts a characterizing flavor.
Mentholated cigarettes is an example of a flavored tobacco product, the report explained, noting that ninety-five percent of African-American teens 12-17 years of age who smoked cigarettes in the last 30 days smoked menthols.
In terms of local enforcement, said the report, community members will continue to report Tobacco Use Prevention Ordinance complaints to the smoking complaint line and Citizen Service Center. The Pasadena Public Health Department Environmental Health Services Division will also field and respond to complaints resulting from changes to the PMC.
City Staff will also review and consider proposing an increase in the Tobacco Retail License fee for the City’s 2021 budget, in order to cover the costs of implementation and enforcement of the new PMC amendments, the report added.