Santa Ana to Potentially Ban Flavored Tobacco Sales

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times.
December 27, 2021 Updated: December 27, 2021

SANTA ANA, Calif.—To keep flavored tobacco products away from minors, Santa Ana is considering a complete ban on flavored tobacco sales or stricter measures to limit product access.

Councilwoman Nelida Mendoza brought forth the agenda item that was originally intended to either be adopted as an urgency ordinance or approved as a first reading.

However, after discussing the ban at the Dec. 21 meeting, councilmembers voted to continue the discussion at a later date where adjustments to the ordinance will be made.

Mendoza issued a recommendation for the ordinance to be more specific with the definition of flavored tobacco products and whether it also encompasses products without nicotine.

“I don’t want any loopholes so that we can protect our youth,” Mendoza said.

Meanwhile, Mayor Vicente Sarmiento urged for the consideration of the city’s diverse communities that utilize flavored tobacco products as part of their heritage.

“We have a large and very important Muslim community here in the city,” Sarmiento said. “I want to make sure that we’re respectful of their cultural traditions as well … I think there’s a way that we could be respectful and make sure that we protect kids.”

Councilwoman Thai Viet Phan voiced her opinion in favor of the ban prior to proposing stricter tobacco sale security measures, such as the photo I.D. scanning required at cannabis retailers.

While the rest of the council agreed to come back for more discussion in the next meeting, Councilman Phil Bacerra spoke against moving forward without approving the prohibition of flavored tobacco products.

“This is literally a life-or-death situation,” Bacerra said. “I’m disappointed that here we are talking about a ban, but then now we’re really just talking about limiting access to it, but access will still be available here in Santa Ana.”

Organizations and retailers for and against the ban came forward to voice their opinion during the meeting’s public comment session.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids—a non-profit organization aiming to “reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences” according to its website—submitted public comments in favor of the ban for the protection of youth.

“We commend Santa Ana for being a national leader in its commitment to reducing the death and disease from tobacco use,” said Lindsay Freitas, the campaign’s regional advocacy director. “Prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products in all tobacco retailers is a critical step that will help protect children living in Santa Ana from the unrelenting efforts by the tobacco industry to hook them to a deadly addiction.”

The California Licensed Beverage Association (CALBA), Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and California Retailers Association, all submitted public comments for the councilmembers to oppose the ban.

“Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products are adult-only products for purchase for those over 21 years old,” CALBA President Beverly Swanson wrote. “Banning the sale of flavored tobacco products inadvertently creates a public health risk by taking these options away from adult consumers who are trying to scale back or quit altogether.”

The conversation on the potential ban and alternative measures to balance cultural sensitivity and youth protection will continue on Jan. 18.

Vanessa Serna is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times.