Flavored e-cigarettes
A selection of flavored e-cigarettes. Courtesy San Diegans vs. Big Tobacco

A coalition of health, parent and community organizations launched a campaign Tuesday to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in San Diego and Chula Vista.

The “San Diegans vs. Big Tobacco” campaign targets menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and flavored shisha, urging the mayors and city councils of both cities to enact local ordinances ending their sale.

“It is time for San Diego and Chula Vista to stand up to big tobacco and end the sale of flavored tobacco products: all flavors, all products, all locations with no exceptions,” said Adrian Kwiatkowski, coalition manager for the San Diego campaign.

The local campaign began with a press conference outside City Hall. Speakers accused the tobacco industry of deliberately targeting the Black community with menthol products and teens with a variety of flavored products, some even disguised as candy.

Coalition members include the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Pediatrics, San Diego County Medical Society, San Ysidro Health Centers, Family Health Centers of San Diego and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  

According to a UC San Diego study, approximately 12% of San Diego County’s high school students are using tobacco. Nationally, 2 million middle and high school students said they used e-cigarettes in the first half of 2021 and 85% reported using flavored products, according to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

More than 100 cities and counties across California, including San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and Long Beach, have cracked down on the sale of flavored tobacco products. California acted in 2020 to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, but that law is on hold because the tobacco industry is seeking to overturn it through a November 2022 referendum.

“We want to help prevent young people from developing a lifelong addiction to nicotine, address the disparate rates of cancer deaths in communities of color and save lives from the public health scourges of big tobacco,” said Lynda Barbour, senior government relations director at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.