By Post Staff and Kaiser Health News
Oakland City Councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Larry Reid, backed by a coalition of health groups, announced this week that they are seeking to pass a groundbreaking citywide ban on flavored tobacco products that target young people.
San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, who spoke at the press event Tuesday on the steps of Oakland City Hall, has proposed a similar ordinance in San Francisco, that would ban the retail sale of menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco or tobacco-related products and goes beyond more narrow laws on flavored tobacco in cities such as Chicago, Berkeley and New York.
“This is a fight against Big Tobacco, (which) for so long has had free reign to target our children. This legislation prohibits the sale of Tobacco products in Oakland,” said Campbell Washington.
Describing his personal fight to quit smoking, Councilmember Reid said that he has had heart surgery four times and has only recently been able to break the smoking, saying Oakland must stop the sale of flavored tobacco products by an industry that “does not care bout the health of our young people.”
“This is groundbreaking legislation,” said Supervisor Cohen. “We are hoping we will inspire (other) cities in this state and other state across the nation” to pass similar laws.
“For too log the tobacco industry has gotten a pass,” she said. “It is criminal that people are being killed by diseases that are preventable.”
Other speakers at the press conference included Dr. Muntu Davis, Alameda County Health Officer and Public Health Director; George Holland, Oakland NAACP president; Jane Garcia, Chief Executive Officer, La Clinica de La Raza; Dr. Carol McGruder African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council chair; Dr. Valerie Yerger, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council; and Dr. Philip Gardiner, Nicotine Dependence and Neurosciences Program officer.
The proposed ordinance is designed to address two major groups, youth and minorities, who have been targeted in successful, well-financed advertising campaigns that promote menthol cigarettes and flavored non-cigarette tobacco products.
Nearly 9 in 10 African-Americans who smoke prefer menthol cigarettes, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Menthol is believed to make the harmful chemicals contained in cigarettes more easily absorbed by the body, and some research shows that menthol cigarettes are more addictive than regular ones, according to the CDC.
“African-Americans don’t have a genetic disposition that makes them smoke menthol cigarettes,” said Dr. Yerger, an associate professor of health policy at the University of California-San Francisco. “It’s the result of a very conscious advertising campaign by the tobacco industry.”
Menthol cigarettes are also preferred by a majority of Latinos and Asian-Americans who smoke, according to Randy Uang, director of tobacco prevention and control services at Breathe California, a Golden Gate Public Health Partnership.