Guest Opinion: City's flavored tobacco ban a win for our children | August 7, 2020 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Spectrum - August 7, 2020

Guest Opinion: City's flavored tobacco ban a win for our children

by Erwin Morton

After months of discussion, Palo Alto City Council this week gave final approval to a measure prohibiting retail sales of flavored tobacco products. This was the right thing to do, and I am grateful that the city took this important step.

Palo Alto's ordinance mirrors one adopted earlier by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. It does not limit what products adults can buy, possess and use; it restricts only the locations where certain products can be purchased. The intent is that by making flavored tobacco products less readily accessible to young people, it will save some of our children from the casual experimentation that can so easily lead to addiction. That is a worthwhile outcome for our community.

California has worked hard to reduce teen smoking, with significant success. Anyone who travels internationally has noticed how much more common smoking is in most countries than here at home. But new technology has given the big tobacco companies an opportunity to develop a new market for their products by hooking a new generation of kids on nicotine. Vaping is the new smoking. In just a few years, it has sneaked up on us, reaching epidemic levels among young people.

The tobacco industry's key to developing lifelong customers is to get them hooked when they are young. That is why so many of the new tobacco products are designed for, and marketed to, teens and younger children. The manufacturers say their products are designed to help adult smokers quit. What 30-year-old wakes up one day and says to himself, "Gee, I've never tried vaping. Maybe that would be fun!" And what adult smoker is enticed by flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum and "unicorn poop?" And why is so much of the marketing focused on platforms used primarily by teens, where parents never even see it? It's really quite simple: People who don't begin smoking or vaping before age 18 generally don't begin at all.

Flavorings are the lure that draws kids in, and nicotine addiction is the trap that keeps them there long term. Some of the same compounds that enrich our food and drink, and are perfectly safe when ingested, can be toxic and dangerous when heated and inhaled, causing long-term health problems and permanent lung damage. But the "Most Harmful Substance" award belongs to nicotine. For clear, reliable information, please visit flavorshookkids.org, or the California Department of Public Health (cdph.ca.gov), or the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health (sccphd.org), or, perhaps best of all, the Stanford Medicine Tobacco Prevention Toolkit (med.stanford.edu/tobaccopreventiontoolkit.html).

Governments at every level are paying attention. Our Congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, is chairwoman of the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In a letter to Palo Alto City Council on May 18, she wrote, "(In January), I wrote to the director of the Center for Tobacco to express my concern that leaving any flavored products on the market, even if they are sold at vape shops or other 'adult only' retail locations, still put our children at risk."

Our State Senator, Jerry Hill, is the author of a bill in the current legislative session that will, if it becomes law, prohibit the retail sale of most flavored tobacco products statewide. (Our Assemblyman, Marc Berman, is a principal co-author.) The bill has been passed by the Senate and is now in the Assembly. It was passed this week by the Assembly health committee and faces several more daunting hurdles in the next few weeks. (The health committee hearing is archived at assembly.ca.gov/media/assembly-health-committee-20200804/video, beginning at 1:50:30.)

Palo Alto's and Santa Clara County's new ordinances and (if it becomes law) SB 793 will reduce the number of children becoming addicted to nicotine in the future. But we must not forget those who have already become addicted. They will need ongoing treatment, counseling, and support from trained professionals. I hope we can find the resources to provide that. Since both vaping and COVID-19 can attack and weaken the lungs, we can expect vapers, even young ones, to have increased susceptibility and worsened outcomes. In the age of COVID-19, we should watch the research and redouble our

efforts to protect ourselves and our families.

These aren't the only local efforts to restrict vaping. A year ago, the Palo Alto PTA Council, with about 6,000 members, most of whom are parents of students in our 17 public schools, set up a committee to study vaping and flavored tobacco and to develop a resolution to guide the California State PTA's advocacy on the topic. I served as co-chair of this committee. At the PTA's statewide association meeting in June, our resolution was adopted with a 99% "yes" vote of all the attendees. Ninety-nine percent. That is not a typo. Parents of every description, from every corner of California, have reacted strongly to the heartbreaking struggles of our teens who try something on a whim or a dare and become hooked for life.

In addition to thanking our city council, I want to thank our elected representatives at the county, state and federal levels, and our public health experts in government and in academia for their efforts to protect our kids from nicotine addiction. I believe I am speaking not just for myself but for thousands of parents locally and many more statewide. As a longtime friend of mine in Palo Alto reminds me periodically, "If we can't keep our children safe, it doesn't much matter what else we do."

Erwin Morton is vice president for advocacy of Palo Alto PTA Council. He can be emailed at [email protected]

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2020 at 9:21 am

marc665 is a registered user.

Re: "... It does not limit what products adults can buy, possess and use; it restricts only the locations where certain products can be purchased. ..."

Sorry but if you can't buy something within a reasonable distance then you are limiting what an adult can buy.

I have no problem with banning sales to minor but there has been no indication that these businesses have been selling to minors.

/marc


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2020 at 10:51 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I was editor of the gunn Oracle in 1982 and our humor columnist was marsh McCall the son of the Classics professor of the same name.
He had a cartoon character named Shep, Who smoked —in those days there was a smoking tree at Gunn near the amphitheater and Gym. And there was a character obviously based on Dr. Norman Lewis, in charge of deportment. And the Dr. Lewis character said, “Shep, take that thing out of your mouth” and Shep said “where would you like me to put it?”


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2020 at 11:25 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

When they came for the flavored tobacco sellers I did not object because I was not a flavored tobacco cellar.… But when they come for the flabby middle-age guys with beards, are you with me?


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2020 at 11:26 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

When they came for the flavored tobacco sellers I did not object because I was not a flavored tobacco seller.… But when they come for the flabby middle-aged guys with beards, are you with me?


Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2020 at 11:34 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

As a community member here on and off since 1974 and roughly 40 years, I’d be happy enough to know that young people have read and understand Hart crane the bridge or the continuum hypothesis; Let parents and the individual deal with smoking sex racism the planet capital punishment how loud you grunt when you speak to your maker etc. no establishment no hiding place we need more poets not nannies and ninnies. Or race car ya-ra’s, in long jackets and short skirts. Ah-yeh, that’s right. Get DOWN!


11 people like this
Posted by BHS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2020 at 10:49 am

BHS is a registered user.

Well done, Erwin! Kudos to you, the Palo Alto Council of PTAs and the California State PTA. PTA was founded in February 1897, based on the shared desires of its first members to better protect and educate children, with advocacy at its core. In the years since, advocacy remains one of the best reasons to join the PTA. As this opinion piece demonstrates, PTA is so much more than your local bake sale and fundraising stereotype...it is a dedicated corps of thoughtful, hard-working and effective advocates for all our children. Thank you, PTA!


6 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 10, 2020 at 11:39 am

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

I have a different perspective than Mark. My parents were teenagers during the Roarin' 20s and they did not see the dangers of tobacco. My parents lived good lives but their lives were clearly cut short by their tobacco acceptance accelerated by WWII. During most of their adult life society avoided tobacco as health hazard for citizens of all ages.

Personal decisions and responsibility are and should be debated. Societal judgement aimed at "underage" tobacco risk is appropriate. Deterrence and education among younger citizens works. Stewardship for younger lives is being made town by town in the best manner possible by elected officials. Now courts will decide on Palo Alto Council's stewardship.


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