At the July 8 Livermore City Council meeting, the second reading of an ordinance regulating tobacco products was again passed unanimously. The ordinance will become effective January 1, 2020.
Particulars concerning exemptions for premium tobacco products will be presented at a future council meeting.
During the citizens’ forum, Mark Gordon from The Cave Downtown supported the current laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to minors. He was concerned about the impact of the new ordinance on his business. “Premium flavored cigars and pipe tobaccos do not appeal to children and should be exempt from the new city ordinance,” he said, adding that FDA research has found that children are not smoking hand-rolled premium cigars.
Vice Mayor Robert Carling recognized the concerns of the school district and parents concerning flavored tobacco and vaping products. He expressed sympathy to the folks who run The Cave Downtown and agreed that premium tobacco products are not something a teenager would like. To enter The Cave Downtown, proof of being over age 21 is required. Carling would like the city attorney to draft into the ordinance an exemption for those kinds of products.
The prohibitions are for flavored tobacco, vaping devices and vaping fluids. The Cave Downtown does offer a premium flavored tobacco product in the store that they would be prohibited from selling if the ordinance remained as stated. City Attorney Jason Alcala recommended passing the ordinance, making it effective January 1, 2020. Then, he suggested pursuing changes at a future meeting to give staff time between the adoption and the enforcement to return with that exemption in place.
Carling stated that would be his preference. Councilmember Bob Coomber declared he would also support that exemption. Mayor John Marchand added that in conversations with the public, it was not the intent to have businesses like The Cave Downtown suffer collateral damage, since the problem was really the accessibility of tobacco and vaping liquids to children.
Councilmember Trish Munro remarked that this ordinance was proposed because of the slipperiness on the part of big tobacco targeting children. This is qualitatively different than in the case of The Cave Downtown, which limits access to those over age 21.
Alcala replied that the definition could be crafted, but it would not be specifically an exception for The Cave Downtown. It would be for an exception for flavored premium tobacco products unless instructed otherwise. A premium tobacco product is defined as a whole-leaf product wrapped using a handmade process as opposed to a mechanical process. The flavors are added through natural means as opposed to chemical treatments.
Councilmember Bob Woerner said he wanted to pass the ordinance as proposed, and that if refinements were needed, they could be considered later.
Carling wondered about exempting all non-flavored vaping products as well. He asked whether the flavored vaping products are what attract kids, rather than the non-flavored products.
Marchand reminded the council of the Dartmouth study, which found that for every individual who quits smoking by using vaping products, 80 children start down the path of nicotine addiction.
Munro mentioned that all of the comments against passing this ordinance were from adults who had used or were using vaping because they stopped cigarettes. These people are still addicted to nicotine and support the very product that is nicotine. Munro explained that the Council is reducing access to tobacco products in order to decrease the number of kids who become addicted.
Marchand closed with this comment from the last council meeting, “Tobacco is the only product when used as directed will kill you.”