As a physician and City Councilmember, I strongly support ending the sale of flavored tobacco products in the City of San Diego. For decades, the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed its products to youth, People of Color, the LGBTQ+ community, and anyone and everyone possible.
I remember seeing cigarette ads aimed at our LGBTQ+ community promoting smoking as an attractive, social activity. In fact, going home from a bar or club stinking like an ashtray, even if you did not smoke, was not attractive. Smoking is not cool and fewer people tolerate being around the stench of cigarettes and second-hand smoke can cause cancer and heart disease and the tobacco industry knows it.
Now, the tobacco industry is working overtime to develop all sorts of new flavored tobacco products to incentivize the population towards a new frontier of addiction. With sleek, stylish devices and sweeter scents, flavored tobacco in its many nicotine-packed forms is now more acceptable than classic cigarettes. There are so many kid-friendly tobacco products still available – candy-flavored vapes, smooth menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, and more. The tobacco industry is laser-focused on keeping their profits, at the cost of their customers’ health.
There is also a tremendous misconception that vaping is a path toward ending one’s tobacco addiction. This is the tobacco industry’s bait-and-switch strategy. One vape pod can have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and a lot of people will smoke more than one pod a day. For decades, the science and medical communities have been crystal clear about the negative effects of using tobacco products. The research and studies outlining the harms of tobacco use are countless and we have known better for many years.
In 2020, our State Assembly, State Senate, and Governor proposed legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in California. Our local LGBTQ+ leaders in Sacramento like State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and then Assemblymember, and now Mayor, Todd Gloria voted in favor of that important public health legislation, but unfortunately, it fell short of a majority. Since then, over 100 cities and counties in California have adopted their own local ordinances to protect their residents. Los Angeles and San Diego are the largest cities in the state that have not acted yet on this important public health issue.
This is not acceptable for San Diego or our LGBTQ+ community and I strongly support my colleague Councilmember Marni von Wilpert’s efforts to bring this legislation to the full City Council. Once on the council agenda, I stand ready to support this ordinance to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in the City of San Diego. As a former smoker who had to work very hard to overcome just five years of nicotine addiction, as a physician, and as a city councilmember, I know that the lives and health of ourselves and our children are at stake and the time for action is now.