Flavored Tobacco (270015)

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted on a motion ordering the City Attorney’s office to draft an ordinance that would end the sale of the candy-flavored tobacco products big tobacco uses to hook kids on nicotine, including menthol cigarettes, across the city of Los Angeles. The motion passed with 14 yes votes and 0 no votes.

According to fightflavoredtobaccola.org, a site powered by the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, the urgency of the action by the City Council is underpinned by a looming threat to the health of Los Angeles’ children: big tobacco is gearing up to spend millions of dollars in a bid to overturn California’s bipartisan and overwhelmingly popular statewide law that ended the sale of most candy-flavored tobacco products. Voters won’t have a chance to weigh in until late 2022, making the Council’s vote an important step toward protecting kids from getting hooked on nicotine in the interim.

“By voting to support ending the sale of flavored tobacco products, the Los Angeles City Council today took a critical step forward to protect kids from tobacco addiction, advance health equity and save lives, especially among its Black residents,” said Matthew L. Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “The Council’s action is the right move to stop the tobacco industry from addicting a new generation of kids and reversing the enormous progress we have made in reducing youth tobacco use.”

Myers said big spending from big tobacco is why youth e-cigarette use has skyrocketed to what the Surgeon General and U.S. Food and Drug Administration have called “epidemic” levels. Today some 3.6 million middle and high school students across the country use e-cigarettes, and four out of five of kids who have used tobacco say they started with a flavored product.

“Today, Los Angeles took one step closer to ending generations of Big Tobacco preying on Black neighborhoods, hooking our kids on menthol cigarettes and profiting off disease, addiction, and death,” said Rev. John E. Cager III, of Ward A.M.E. Church. “Some 40,000 Black people die every year from smoking-related diseases, many of them trapped from a young age in a lifelong addiction to nicotine. That’s why, in the coming weeks, we will continue to call on the LA City Council to double down on keeping young people safe and healthy by taking minty-menthol cigarettes and candy-flavored e-cigarettes off the shelves for good.”

Los Angeles City Councilmembers Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mark Ridley-Thomas agreed.

“Smoking is the number one cause of death in Black households, and that’s no accident,” said Harris-Dawson. “It’s because tobacco companies deliberately target Black neighborhoods with cigarettes containing menthol, a flavor that makes the tobacco taste minty and masks the harshness of the smoke. They’ve spent millions of dollars on marketing and advertising to make sure it’s easier for our kids to get hooked and harder for them to quit. That’s why I’m proud to support this motion and why I am committed to ending the sale of menthol cigarettes across our city.”

In his former position on the County Board of Supervisors, Ridley-Thomas helped adopt an ordinance in 2019 to comprehensively control tobacco use.

“Equity matters—and health status is a key indicator of equity. The negative health impacts associated with tobacco use are indisputable. As we see the use of flavored tobacco and vaping on the rise, we know that our youth are the ones most vulnerable to the appeal and its detrimental impacts. That’s why it is so important that we curb the sale of these products which are marketed with one simple objective—to entice and entrap youth consumption,” Ridley-Thomas said. “History has shown us clearly what harmful effects menthol cigarettes have had, particularly on the Black community, and it is up to us to prevent the repetition of such past injustices.”