Teen smoking e-cigarette
A teen secretly smoking an e-cigarette. Photo via Pixabay

It is astounding that 42% of San Diego high school students have vaped. Nicotine addiction among teens is on the rise, affecting brain development, attention span, memory, and learning capability.

Fortunately, San Diegans have an advocate on the City Council. The Stopping Adolescent Addiction to Flavored E-Cigarettes ordinance was presented by its author, Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, on Feb. 9, and will go to the council in early March. The SAAFE ordinance would end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, also known as vapes. 

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It’s not hard to understand why vaping rates have skyrocketed among teens. Vaping products are highly addictive and come in over 10,000 flavors, including Sour Gummy Worm, Apple Juice, and Unicorn Poop.

Flavors like these hook kids. The SAAFE ordinance is being proposed to protect our youth from the these predatory tactics.

Equally important to note is the proposal by von Wilpert to include menthol products in the ordinance. Menthol is the original flavored tobacco and became the foundation for predatory marketing practices.

Before the tobacco industry decided to push menthol products into communities of color, only 3% of Black smokers used menthol. After relentless and voracious marketing spanning decades, 85% of Black smokers use menthol products.

The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council has led the fight against menthol tobacco products. The council describes menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars as “the main vectors of death and disease in Black, Brown and other poor communities of color.”

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Omicron surge, nothing could be more helpful in saving Black lives than to get these products out of the Black community.

Public health and youth serving advocates across San Diego celebrate von Wilpert’s leadership in addressing menthol tobacco and flavored e-cigarettes with the SAAFE ordinance. Set against the backdrop of Black History Month, it’s an important step toward health equity for all San Diegans.

For more information or to get involved in the fight against tobacco, visit SavingBlackLives.org.

Cynthia Knapp is program manager for the San Diego Smoke-Free Project at SAY San Diego. Dr. Phillip Gardiner is co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.