Vaping Illnesses

FILE - In this Saturday, June 8, 2019 file photo, two women smoke cannabis vape pens at a party in Los Angeles. On Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than three-quarters of the 805 confirmed and probable illnesses from vaping involved THC, the ingredient that produces a high in marijuana. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

An urgency ban on sales of all vaporizer products, including all flavored tobacco products, will take root in Manhattan Beach in the coming weeks.

The city—which has already banned public smoking as well as certain flavored tobacco products with the exception of certain mint flavors—looks to ban the sale of all tobacco products in the near future to the chagrin of local business owners. 

At a meeting Tuesday, Oct. 1—the same day L.A. County and Long Beach lawmakers voted to implement flavored tobacco bans—Manhattan Beach leadership sought to address what local educators called "a vaping epidemic." 

“Prior to the fall of 2017, if we had ten suspensions a year that was a lot” explained Ben Dale, principal at Mira Costa High School. “Now we’re having that a month when it comes to vaping. So if you want to talk about an epidemic…”

An urgency ordinance will be brought before the city council at an upcoming meeting banning vaporizers, vape products and all flavored tobacco products—including mint, menthol, spearmint and wintergreen which the city had previously exempted.

Manhattan Beach leaders urged immediacy due to the emerging health concerns surrounding vaping. 

“Now we are being churned with realization of more and more health risks,” said Councilmember Hildy Stern. “We have this health risk with vaping...and now we have the chance to do something...let’s try to make a difference today that we can see.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found vaping to be associated with 805 lung injury cases and 12 deaths nationwide—data which seems to be prompting many California cities, including Burbank, Beverly Hills and San Francisco to pass similar ordinances. 

But Manhattan Beach officials are looking to take it one step further.

The panel will be working towards a future ban of sales on all tobacco products and discontinuing issuing new tobacco sales licenses. 

Local students, school administrators, parents, the Beach Cities Health District and the American Lung Association spoke at the meeting to express support of an all-out tobacco ban, asserting the risks to young people with vaping in particular.  

“We know there is no safe amount of smoking and also that nicotine found in cigarettes is highly addictive,” said Ali Steward, director of services from the Beach Cities Health District, noting vaping devices are particularly tough to crack down on because they can often resemble flash drives or highlighters. “Tonight, you have options to prevent youth access to vaping and nicotine. The magnitude of this epidemic cannot be overestimated.” 

“We all know if we looked at the world we want to see, we know that we would want to see a world that’s absent smoking,” said Stern. “Whenever we’re dealing with health... we have to weigh the costs and the benefits. We have to say what is the cost of continuing this and who reaps the benefit.” 

While some of the panel were in agreement about the benefits of outlawing all tobacco products, others felt it would severely detriment local, family-owned businesses. 

“I would just urge each of us to think of the known, absolute human cost to these families of depriving them of a legal source of revenue,” said Councilmember Suzanne Hadley, who was the only councilmember to vote against the legislation. “We’re not just taking away tobacco sales, we’re taking away tobacco customers and that could be the death knell for their businesses.” 

Business owners at the meeting agreed that an all-out ban on tobacco products would gravely hurt their bottom line because most customers who come in for cigarettes or cigars also buy other merchandise. 

“When you come for a cigarette, you also buy your pack of gum and you also buy a water,” said a local woman, who has co-owned a Manhattan Beach market with her husband for nearly 17 years. “It’s drastically affecting.” 

She also said banning tobacco products because they are considered unhealthy is a slippery slope.

“I just don’t want this to keep going on to the next thing you guys deem unhealthy,” the woman added. “This is American and we can smoke.”

The owner of Manhattan Beach Smoke Shop said 90 percent of his sales are tobacco products so a ban would put him out of business.

“I want to stay in business; I want to stay in the city,” he said. 

Local leaders suggested a hardship exemption and graduated time frame to roll out the all-out smoking ban to give impacted businesses time to get up to snuff, but dissented on what that time frame should be.

Councilmember Steve Napolitano suggested the ordinance go into effect in Jan. 1 of 2023 while Mayor Hersman felt that time frame was too long. 

“You have to start somewhere. People need to take a step,” Mayor Nancy Hersman added, citing a Beverly Hills recent tobacco ordinance which bans the retail sale of tobacco products and electronic cigarette paraphernalia except in cigar lounges and hotels.

For now, the date for the ban remains open-ended. 

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