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San Diego bans sale of flavored tobacco, vape products

The San Diego City Council voted Monday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has more.

The San Diego City Council voted Monday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products starting in 2023.

The proposal put forward by Councilmember Marni von Wilpert exempts shisha, premium cigars, loose-leaf tobacco and FDA-approved smoking cessation devices. Unflavored e-cigarettes and those flavored like tobacco are also exempt.

The delayed implementation is aimed at giving shop owners time to offload their inventory and adjust their business plans.


Supporters of the ban argue big tobacco companies have added candy-like flavors to their products to get youth hooked on nicotine so they become lifelong smokers and vapers.

"We know the long-term effect of nicotine use and smoking, and it is imperative that San Diego acts now to try and break that cycle once again," von Wilpert said. "This ordinance will help stop the rising rates of adolescent addiction in the city of San Diego and I'm proud to bring it forward."

Smoke and vape shop owners turned out in large numbers to oppose the ban, saying the ban will result in lost jobs and tax revenues and that youth rarely get flavored tobacco products from brick-and-mortar stores.

"They're getting it from online sources, unregulated and untaxed," said Marlon Oram Mansour, president of the Neighborhood Market Association. "If you pass this, one year from now you'll see the current legal users of these products resort back to traditional harmful cigarettes."

Von Wilpert acknowledged many youth get nicotine products in social settings and from adults purchasing it legally. But she added some stores are selling to youth, citing sting operations conducted by the San Diego Police Department.


The council passed the measure 7-2, with Councilmembers Chris Cate and Vivian Moreno voting "no." Cate said he was not convinced the ban would actually reduce youth tobacco and nicotine consumption.

Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said more action would be necessary to reduce youth addiction to nicotine, but that making the products harder to obtain would still have a positive impact.

"Not eradicating a problem does not mean we should not mitigate it," Elo-Rivera said.

California lawmakers approved a statewide ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products in 2020, but opponents gathered enough signatures to force the measure to pass a statewide referendum. That vote is planned for November.