ORINDA – Orinda has become the latest Bay Area city to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and all vaping products.
The City Council voted unanimously to pass the ban at Tuesday’s meeting. According to the ordinance, the ban is intended to discourage smoking among minors, who are more attracted to flavored tobacco, studies show. Four out of five young adults ages 18 to 24 who have used tobacco say their first time using was with a flavored product, according to Truth Initiative, a nonprofit public health organization.
“Cancer just attacks anybody that it can get its hands on, so I think we have to be very cognizant that these can be dangerous products,” Mayor Dennis Fay said. “I think it’s important for us to go forward with this.”
Menthol cigarettes also are included in the ban.
City staff did not have data on the rate of smoking among Orinda youth, but according to Contra Costa Health Services, the overall rate of smokers in the county is 10%, lower than the national average of 12.5%.
After the ban goes into effect in June, Orinda will rely on the seven affected businesses voluntarily complying. However, merchants who continue to sell flavored tobacco or vaping products could be cited. City Manager David Biggs wrote in an email that Orinda businesses typically comply in cases like this.
Councilmember Nick Kosla had some hesitations about the prohibition, but ultimately voted in favor of the ban.
“My only concern generally is telling businesses what they can sell but, in my research, I’ve noticed that most of the adults in this town who use tobacco products … in all those cases, it wasn’t flavored tobacco,” Kosla said.
Nearby Lafayette prohibited flavored tobacco products three years ago, and Walnut Creek issued its ban last November.
Prohibiting sales of vaping products is a bit rarer. Walnut Creek also banned them in November, becoming the first Contra Costa County city to do so.
Moraga does not have a ban on either flavored tobacco or vaping products, however.
California has also made its own move in this arena – in 2020, legislators passed a law to ban the sale of flavored tobaccos in the state. However, that law is on hold pending the outcome of the California Flavored Tobacco Products Ban Referendum, which could repeal the legislation if enough voters vote “no” on Nov. 8.
It’s a contentious topic with no shortage of money being thrown in from both sides. Those who want to repeal the statewide legislation have raised $21.16 million, while those in favor of the ban have raised $2.7 million.
Thomas Slotten, a government affairs representative for hookah manufacturer Fumari, told the council that many minority communities have used hookah for centuries culturally and asked for hookah usage to be an exemption to this ban.
“We express our gratitude and show our support for taking action against the youth nicotine addiction epidemic,” he said. “We ask that in the process you do not implement an ordinance that criminalizes the rich, cultural tradition of hookah.”
However, the council went ahead with the ban, including hookah. In an email, Biggs noted that none of the Orinda tobacco retailers currently sell hookah products.