The sale of flavored tobacco products, including methanol, will be banned starting Jan. 1, 2023, after San Diego City Council voted 7-2 to pass the ordinance. 
Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert spearheaded the move, following similar actions in cities such as Imperial Beach, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and unincorporated areas of San Diego County. The ordinance, known as the Stop Adolescent Addiction From E-Cigarettes (SAAFE) Act, does not apply to the sale of shisha, premium cigars, or loose-leaf tobacco and unflavored or tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, as well as FDA-approved cessation devices.

The council conducted a first reading on the issue in April.  

 “I thank my colleagues for standing with me to stop Big Tobacco from addicting an entirely new generation of youth to tobacco products by officially approving the SAAFE Act,'' von Wilpert said. "Flavored tobacco products are intentionally marketed to kids, and I am proud that our city is taking action to prevent the sale of these products and protect our youth.''

Thousands of signatures from area high school students supporting the ordinance were presented to the council by von Wilpert. 

“Candy flavored tobacco products are intentionally marketed to kids, and today, the San Diego City Council took bold action to prevent the sale of these products and protect our youth,” von Wilpert said. 

Many of those students are not old enough to vote in the November referendum. 

After practicing medicine for 40 years, Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell said she had seen the impact on children who lived in homes with smokers.

"We must stop Big Tobacco from aggressively targeting our children and vulnerable communities,'' she said. “The Stop Adolescent Addiction From E-Cigarettes will help protect our communities from the tobacco industry making life-long customers addicted to nicotine.''

According to findings presented in April by von Wilpert's office, In the most recently completed study of the city's tobacco retailers in 2019, 14.7 percent of retailers sold to an underage police decoy. Her office reported those numbers increased by nearly 30 percent in an upcoming study. 

Dozens of business owners spoke in April who claimed flavored tobacco made up anywhere from 25 percent to nearly half of their business. Nearly all business owners in opposition to the ordinance claimed they were law-abiding. Several opponents to the ordinance pointed to the paternalistic nature of the law, claiming parents should be in charge of how to raise their children. 

On Monday, another aspect of the ordinance was passed to officially update San Diego’s codes to change the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21. Despite former Gov. Jerry Brown raising the state’s age of sale to 21 in 2016, San Diego had not updated its laws since.

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