The sale of all flavored tobacco products, electronic smoking devices and related equipment that could provide nicotine will soon be banned for sale in Pleasanton following a city council decision on Feb.18.

In addition, the ordinance raises the local smoking age from 18 to 21 years and prohibits those under 21 from possessing any tobacco products. It also bans new tobacco retailers or tobacco stores within 1,000 feet of public schools, parks, and recreation centers, while allowing those existing businesses to remain so long as there is no change in ownership. It directs the city manager to develop a tobacco retailer licensing program.

The city council chambers were packed with over 60 students and parents almost all advocating that the proposed ordinance also ban all menthol-flavored tobacco products.

City staff had originally proposed allowing the sales of flavored tobacco products to customers aged 21 and up. After hearing the concerns of the students and parents, that idea was rejected by the council majority, with the exception of Councilman Jerry Pentin.

Students from every middle school and high school in Pleasanton spoke in favor of the ordinance. “Smoking and vaping is an everyday issue in our schools. We are all being affected by students using these products,” said Nishant Jain, Amador High School student body vice president. “Adopting this code will benefit all the youth in Pleasanton.”

Mayor Jerry Thorne agreed. “I unfortunately started smoking when I was 13 years old,” he said. “I didn’t quit until 1997 and now I have COPD and emphysema and use a nebulizer 2 to 3 times a week to help me breathe.”

Pleasanton currently licenses four tobacco stores which sell only tobacco and tobacco related products. There are 49 convenience stores, gas stations and grocery stores that also sell tobacco products.

Three tobacco store owners asked for the ordinance to allow them to continue sales of flavored tobacco to adults over 21, noting that 50-60% of their revenues were from these products. They each described their methods of verifying the age of the person trying to purchase vaping or other tobacco products. “Verification of age and identification of the buyer can now be easily determined electronically. We can tell if an I.D. is real or fake immediately,” stated Cigars Tobacco Hut owner Joseph Haddad.

Three adult speakers wanting flavored tobacco and vaping devices to remain available to them relating how vaping helped them stop cigarette smoking. Pleasanton resident David Wilson said “I smoked for over 25 years and vaping saved my life. If this ban happens, I will probably go back to smoking cigarettes.”

Council members asked interim Chief of Police Craig Eicher whether the stores’ verification systems worked. “There are four tobacco stores in Pleasanton. They have all passed decoy operations to determine if they allowed sales to minors,” he said. Numbers for the 49 Pleasanton retailers who sell tobacco as only a small part to their main business are not immediately available.

Councilwoman Kathy Narum asked Eicher if raising the legal age to 21 would create additional monitoring problems.

“Presently, if a minor is under 18 and caught with any tobacco or vaping product the item(s) are confiscated and a warning is issued. If there is a reoccurrence, the person is entered into a police and school diversion program for juveniles in lieu of prosecution,” Eicher said. “A new program would have to be developed.”

Derek Dressler, student body president Foothill High School and student board member of the Pleasanton Union School District summed up the decision those gathered before the council needed to make: “You can vote to stop this threat to our community or you can choose to wait, to stand still in the face of true adversity by not protecting those 15,000 students who currently face the largest epidemic among teens and young adults in modern time.”

Kristi Wang, co-founder of Flavors Addict Kids-Livermore said, “We urge the council to pass the same comprehensive policy with no exemptions so the entire Tri-Valley can show a united front in this fight against nicotine addiction.”

At a subsequent council meeting next month,

Staff in March will bring the ordinance back with all requested revisions for discussion, and possible vote. If approved, the effective date for the ordinance will be determined. The revised ordinance will then have to return for a second reading and approval before any enforcement action can be taken.

Pleasanton Tobacco Opinion Survey

Pleasanton conducted a Tobacco Opinion Survey in January. The findings were released Feb.18, the same day the City Council met to consider an ordinance banning flavored tobacco and raising the legal smoking age within city limits to 21.

In the 636 surveys collected, 90% of those responding believed youth tobacco use was an issue and 62% felt it was easy for youth to purchase tobacco products in Pleasanton. Identical surveys were conducted by Young Adult Leaders (YAL) and Pleasanton-Coalition for Health Against Tobacco (P-CHAT) in person and via electronic versions. 78% of responders were over 35 years old, with 21% younger than 35.

According to the survey, 87% believed solutions could be reached through banning all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, and 81% supported banning sales of vaping and electronic smoking devices. More than four out of five surveyed supported bans on small package sizes and discounts on tobacco products, such as coupons.

Tobacco as an Issue — Agree or Strongly Agree

Sale of Singles/small packages increases youth access: 77%

Flavors appeal to youth: 95%

Tobacco discounts increase youth access: 89%

Low-cost tobacco appeals to youth: 89%

Easy for youth to purchase tobacco: 62%

Youth tobacco use an issue in our community: 90%

Tobacco use (not just youth) an issue in our community: 83%

Support for Potential Tobacco Policies — Support or Strongly Support

Restricting locations of tobacco retailers: 92%

Ban on pharmacy tobacco sales: 81%

Ban on Sales of vapes/electronic smoking devices: 81%

Ban on sale of flavored tobacco preoducts: 87%

Minimum pricing: 73%

Ban on small package sizes including singles: 80%

Ban on tobacco discounts including coupons: 87%

Enforcement of underage tobacco sales: 97%

Tobacco retail licenses: 90%