OAKLAND (CBS SF) — The City councilwoman from Oakland who spearheaded the city’s soda tax it taking aim at flavored tobacco and vaping products she says are getting kids hooked on a bad habit.
The tobacco products sold in convenience stores like 7-Eleven come in a variety of flavors that range from cinnamon toast crunch and cotton candy to a variety of fruit flavors that officials argue appeal directly to children, despite the age restriction on who can buy the products.
Oakland officials want to ban these flavored packets along with other tobacco products, but the proposed crackdown is sparking a backlash.
The flavored papers for tobacco are sold behind the counter to those 21 and over.
“Believe it or not older people buy the blueberry or grape,” said 7-Eleven manager Paul Sekhon.
But Oakland City Council members Annie Campbell Washington and Larry Reid say it is eye candy to young people and intended to get them hooked on a bad habit
The city of Oakland has taken its first step to ban flavored tobacco products.
Sekhon claimed that he is conscious of keeping the items in question out of the hands of minors.
“We have a school that’s a little bit of a ways away,” said Sekhon. “I have zero violations because we check ID. So if you moved it [the age allowed to purchase] to 21, allow it to work.”
Candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes are already banned on a federal level, but currently there is no ban or regulation on the kinds of flavors tobacco companies can infuse into cigars, smokeless tobacco and vape oil.
Stefan Didak is founder of the non-profit vaping advocacy group Not Blowing Smoke.
“We had tax increase and now they are trying to ban flavors,” said Didak. “If you take the flavors out, there is no incentive to keep vaping, and it would basically condemn people to go back to smoking.”
Assemblywoman Washington previously spearheaded Oakland’s soda tax, which was designed as a public health measure to reduce consumption and fund nutrition education programs.
But convenience store owner Ann Sekhon says this ban will do more harm than good.
“A black market is going to exist. Is that the way we want to go?” she asked.
Parents say it comes down to teaching your kids, not banning certain products altogether.
“It depends on how your raise your kids,” argued Paul Sekhon.
The proposed ban is expect to be discussed in the next couple of weeks.