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

Anti-smoking and vaping activists joined council members Jen Campbell and Marni von Wilpert Thursday to show support for ending the sale of flavored tobacco in San Diego.

A local ordinance to ban such sales, the SAAFE Act, is set to go before the San Diego City Council on April 25.  

Council member Marni von Wilpert, in a statement, accused the smoking and vaping industry of targeting and addicting “a new generation of children on tobacco and nicotine products” using “candy flavors to appeal to young children and trick them into thinking they are smoking something safer than traditional cigarettes.”

“We must act now to hold Big Tobacco accountable and to protect the health and safety of our youth,” she said. 

The latest data shows that over 2 million kids used e-cigarettes last year, according to the 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey, and 85% of them use flavored tobacco products. Locally, it’s estimated that one in four San Diego high school students use e-cigarettes.  

“Our lives and the health of our children are at stake. The time for action is now,” Council member Jen Campbell said. 

A local coalition, San Diegans vs. Big Tobacco, is behind the push for the city ban. Members include the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, along with parent, physician and youth advocacy groups.

“All San Diego city council members have the opportunity to make a crucial decision that will improve the health and future of the city and its residents in the name of public health, equity and social justice,” said Aida Castaneda, deputy coalition manager.

San Diego is one of the largest cities in California without an ordinance ending the sale of flavored tobacco products. More than 100 cities and counties across California, including San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Ana and Long Beach, are cracking down on the sale of such products.

California acted in 2020 to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, but that law is on hold. The tobacco industry spent $20 million to try to overturn it via a November 2022 referendum.