By Zachary Rickrode-Fernandez, AHA Advocacy volunteer in the Bay Area
Marin County and the city of Alameda are among the latest Bay Area jurisdictions to take a stand against Big Tobacco, continuing the wave of anti-flavored-tobacco legislation that has taken over the Bay Area since the summer of 2017. On November 6, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to end the sale of flavored tobacco products. On November 7, the Alameda City Council voted 4-1 to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, pending a final vote at the end of the month.
hero_image_alt_text===Picture of two hands one holding a cigarette and one holding an e-cigarette
thumbnail_alt_text===Picture of two hands one holding a cigarette and one holding an e-cigarette
Despite efforts to curb usage of and access to flavored tobacco products, the number of middle school and high school students using these products – especially Juuls – continues to rise nationally. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the number of high-school students that used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days has risen by about 75% since last year. In Alameda specifically, nearly one-in-four 11th graders reported having used a vaping device or e-cigarettes.
Ending the sale of flavored tobacco reduces access to the products that are the industry’s key strategy for targeting and addicting new smokers. Despite laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco products to minors, they are still relatively easy to obtain, even here in California where the legal age to purchase is 21. In fact, a survey of 11th graders in Alameda Unified School District found that 42% believe that it is “very” or “fairly” easy to obtain these products.
While I am encouraged by the progress that continues to be made in anti-flavored-tobacco policies, I cannot help but think about the harms that have already been caused by this “new tobacco.” During the San Francisco campaign to end the sale of flavored tobacco, I worked with many youth volunteers that came to support from all around the Bay Area. Their motives were clear. As one El Cerrito high school student told me, “I’m here because Juul is tearing my school apart.” What this and other youth stories tell me is that these flavored tobacco products are affecting kids’ lives in ways that most of us cannot understand.
Stories like these are why we must continue this work. Let’s congratulate Marin County for carrying on the fight to protect our kids from the reach of Big Tobacco.