SAN DIEGO – San Diego City Council on Monday passed an act that will ban the sale of specified flavored tobacco products, including menthol-flavored cigarettes, often marketed at young kids and teens.

The Stop Adolescent Addiction to Flavored E-Cigarettes Act proposed by Councilmember Marni von Wilpert aims to cut down on harmful tobacco products that are infused with creative flavors to entice teenagers and young adults. It passed by a 7-2 vote.

“Candy flavored tobacco products are intentionally marketed to kids, and today, the San Diego City Council took bold action to prevent the sale of these products and protect our youth,” Von Wilpert said. “I thank my colleagues for standing with me to stop Big Tobacco from addicting an entire new generation of youth on tobacco products.”

The SAAFE Act, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2023, does not apply to shisha, premium cigars or loose-leaf tobacco, and does not include FDA-approved cessation devices and unflavored e-cigarettes.

“We have a responsibility to act once we see a harm occurring in our community — especially when that harm impacts our young people,” Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said. “Flavored tobacco products are a malicious attempt by Big Tobacco to trap youth in a life of unhealthy addiction and the SAAFE Act will disrupt that effort.”  

Despite many parents and families rejoicing in the passage, some who attended the meeting suggested it was government overreach and that it creates a dangerous precedent.

“No offense to any of you council members, it is not up to you. If you want to make this a law, you leave it to the state,” one man in attendance said.

“When did it become the government’s job to raise our children?” asked one woman.

Marlon Mansour, president of the Neighborhood Market Association, says he opposes the ban, but more so because of the impact he believes it will have on local businesses.

“Just last year in the unincorporated county of San Diego, a similar flavor ban was not only proposed, but implemented,” Mansour said. “And in less than a year it has devastated the retailer community.”

Janan Moein, a supporter of the ban, says that it is the opposition of organizations like the one led by Mansour that make the ban needed in San Diego.

“The people that are here in opposition of this act don’t find themselves to be morally obligated because they are lining their pockets with the proceeds and the funds. This is how they make their business,” said Moein.

Mansour and the Neighborhood Market Association released the following statement to FOX 5:

“We are disappointed that the San Diego City Council voted 7-2 today to ban the sales of flavored tobacco citywide despite a referendum slated on the November ballot where Californians will have the opportunity to vote on a statewide ban. Banning the sales of these products will not stop flavored tobacco use in underage individuals. These products will continue to be sold on the internet where unscrupulous sources stand ready to capitalize on the ban. As one of our representatives testified during the public comment portion of today’s meeting, anyone, including minors, who is intent on buying flavored tobacco need only go online to find a black-market resource. Law-abiding and responsible convenience store owners, on the other hand, will suffer when more than 30% of their stores’ inventory – flavored tobacco – is pulled from their shelves. Every one of our members takes great pride in being compliant with age-verification laws. None sell to minors. This law will not have an impact on youth sales when it is already against the law. As one city council member who voted against the ordinance pointed out, this is not a regulation problem, this is an enforcement problem. Banning flavored tobacco will do nothing to stop illegal sales of tobacco to San Diego youth. It will, however, cripple the businesses of hard-working San Diegans who obey the law and serve their communities.”  

Neighborhood Market Association