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Flavored-tobacco products may be banned for sale in Burbank

Burbank City Council considers restricting e-cigarettes
The Burbank City Council is in the works to ban the sale of flavored-tobacco products within the city.
(David Cooper / Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Those who use flavored-tobacco products soon may not be able to purchase them in Burbank.

The City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve the first reading of an ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco in an effort to reduce the number of teens and children using e-cigarettes, vape pens and other tobacco products.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors advanced a similar ban on Tuesday.

Burbank’s proposed ban includes flavored items including cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, solutions used in vaping devices known as e-liquids, menthol cigarettes, cigarettes already prohibited by federal law and components and accessories, such as rolling papers, filters and blunt wraps.

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Shisha, the flavored tobacco used in hookah pipes, is exempt from the proposed ordinance.

Under the proposed regulation, retailers that violate the law will be subject to criminal enforcement, as well as and up to revocation of a business owner’s license to sell tobacco products, according to a staff report.

First offenses may result in a license suspension for 30 days, while a second offense within a five-year period would result in revocation of a license to sell tobacco.

Should the City Council approve the proposed ordinance, which is expected to be brought back to council members in October, the ban is scheduled to go into effect on May 1, 2020, to allow time for retailers to comply with the regulations.

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While the proposed ban would affect numerous tobacco and vape retailers in the city, the ordinance would not affect online sales of the product.

The council’s chamber was filled Tuesday night with people representing all sides of the issue.

Taylor Thompson, a sales representative for a Torrance-based e-liquid manufacturer called SAVEURVAPE, said flavored products like the ones made by the business she works for have helped adult smokers transition away from cigarettes.

“I don’t want any kids to vape,” she said. “I want to help people off of something that’s going to kill them.”

She added that banning flavored-tobacco products will not help the city or the county address the youth smoking epidemic.

Thompson’s solution would be for better enforcement on underaged sales of the products and better education.

Diane Grair, a teacher at Burbank High School, said that although she does not condone children using tobacco products, the ban would have significant negative impacts on businesses in the city, including the business her family owns, though she didn’t identify the business by name.

By banning flavored products, Grair said it would lead to minors purchasing these items from black-market sources instead of reputable and regulated businesses.

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“I care about the youth, [and] I care about my students, but a ban will not prevent them from vaping if they are already vaping now,” she said.

Burbank Police Sgt. Stephen Turner said businesses can be monitored to ensure they’re adhering to the rules. However, he added that minors cannot be cited for being in possession of tobacco products because of state regulations passed in 2016.

“As far as the youth and youth being in possession of tobacco products, our best effort is with the [Burbank Unified] School District to educate,” Turner said.

Stacy Cashman, Burbank Unified’s director of student services, told council members that the number of students vaping has been on the rise and, as a 27-year employee with the district, she thinks there is an epidemic.

“Our kids are doing it in class, they’re doing it in the hallways and restrooms,” Cashman said. “There’s nothing that we can do except work together. Our police, our city, our nonprofits, our parents, we need to come together and fight this on a multitiered front. It’s can’t be one solution or people throwing blame. We have to come together for our kids.”

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