San Jose Council Bans Flavored Tobacco Products, Further Restricts Retailers

This report has been updated, to reflect the Sept.28 City Council vote.

San Jose is  the biggest city in California to ban flavored tobacco city-wide in an effort to reduce access to tobacco and curb teen tobacco addiction.

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt two separate ordinances designed to reach that goal.

The first ordinance bans the sale of flavored tobacco in cigarettes and vapes, including menthol products, because it is widely used among youth who smoke.

It establishes proximity limits that prohibit new tobacco retailers from opening a store within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer and within 1,000 feet of a school, park, community center or library.

The second ordinance expands a ban on any kind of smoking, including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and cannabis products, in multi-family housing complexes within San Jose.

Previous city regulations only prohibited smoking in publicly accessible and common areas of multi-family housing. The new ordinance prohibits indoor smoking at housing sites with three or more units. Motels, hotels, duplexes and condominiums would be exempt.

Local leaders like Mayor Sam Liccardo and city councilmembers had gathered on Monday to rally behind the ordinances - emphasizing these bans were aimed to protect San Jose's youth.

“We are advocating here for the kids,” Councilmember Pam Foley said. “Teens are particularly susceptible to big tobacco advertising with nearly 90 percent of smokers starting by age 18 and four out of five kids who have used tobacco started with the flavored products.”

Foley said Tuesday's vote would be the culmination of years of work and advocacy, even before her time in city council. In 2019, she introduced the ban of flavored tobacco produces as a priority item for the city and councilmembers agreed.

“I interviewed a dozen high school teens in a focus group on their use of vaping,” Foley said. “I was really frankly alarmed to learn how easy it was for these kids to gain access to not only flavored tobacco, but these devices, even though it's illegal for them to own it.”

In fact, a 2019 study by Santa Clara County's health department found that one in every three teens in the county reported they have used an e-cigarette at least once.

Among current teen tobacco users, 82.3 percent reported using a flavored product.

More than 2 in 5 teens (45.4 percent) reported purchasing their own e-cigarettes, with over a quarter of this group reporting that they bought them directly from a local store, county data revealed.

“These are kiddos who are developing their young minds and bodies and have no business risking their health while vaping,"” said Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco. "”All these e-cigarette flavors may taste like candy but it's poison to our children.”

Carrasco also emphasized that flavored tobacco products disproportionately impact Black and Latino youth, as many tobacco retailers are concentrated within East San Jose, a sentiment echoed by Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and NAACP President Bob Nunez.

San Jose isn't the first municipality to enact such a ban. More than 100 cities across the state including San Francisco and Oakland and about half the cities in Santa Clara County already have bans in place.

California Governor Gavin Newsom also signed a bill last year to prohibit the sale of most flavored tobacco products. However, the tobacco industry quickly responded with a referendum campaign which places a hold on the ban until voters decide whether to enact it in 2022.

However, some studies indicate that such bans may not be as effective as proponents hope.

A 2021 study conducted by Yale School of Public Health, and posted in JAMA Pediatrics, found that the rate of high schoolers smoking conventional cigarettes doubled in San Francisco after they prohibited the sale of flavored tobacco products in 2018.

Data from a 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey also found that 16 percent of San Francisco high school students had used a vapor product on at least one occasion in 2019 - a 125 percent increase from 2017 when 7.1 percent of San Francisco high school students reported using an e-cigarette.

Still, the new San Jose ordinance had a lot of support in San Jose. Proponents include Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody, the county's office of education, and several other labor, social and racial justice and medical groups in the city.

The ordinance aligns with state and federal regulations so retailers that sell hookah or hookah related products would be exempt from the ban. That keeps the city's 13 hookah lounges safe for now, but more than 650 San Jose tobacco retailers will have to make the shift.

A ban of flavored tobacco products is a move 80 percent of tobacco retailers predictably oppose, a recent study by the city found.

However, a survey of nearly 600 registered voters in San Jose, found 73 percent support a proposal that would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco in the city and more than three in five do so "strongly."

The ordinance gives retailers a six-month grace period to remove prohibited products from their shelves. So, by June 30, 2022, San Joseans wishing to purchase flavored tobacco products may have to look outside of city limits to do so.

Enforcement of the ban targets retailers, rather than those who possess banned products.

The city will be setting fine amounts and intends to conduct a minimum of one annual compliance check per year.

Jana Kadah is a reporter with Bay City News.





  1. Awesome. Next let’s ban marijuana. That stuff and the people who smoke it really reek. Plus smoking adds carbon to the environment increasing global warming. Cancer and respiratory illnesses caused by smoking are all well established too. Time to end this dangerous habit too.

  2. It’s not about safety, but singling out some smaller businesses (they aren’t Google), as with gun stores, for political measures, especially (given the timing) just before elections.

  3. Sounds insane to me. Yeah kids shouldn’t smoke but isn’t this a parent issue?
    And what about the decriminilization of shrooms and LSD under consideration?
    And I wonder, are there certain corporations funding this ban??

  4. Total crap. What about the Adults who it helps get off cigarettes? Where is the studies that e cigs are harmful that we’re not conducted by big tobacco, who by the way are losing billions from e cigs.

  5. Wow as long as we are banning flavors, lets ban salt, fat and other flavors in potato and corn chips. How about taking the flavor out of soda’s and alcoholic drinks, instead of fried chicken lets boil it.
    I for one am sick and tired this bunch of Communist Dictators ruling and ruining this county and mandating how they think we should live our lives. Yet as Joe Smith points out these same people have no problem with marijuana, fentanyl, crack and heroine and other really dangerous drugs being manufactured or smuggled into the country. “A Pox” on your house San Jose “A Pox” you San Liccardo . “A Pox on you City Council.

  6. 1) the ban is for FLAVORED eCigs which just like alcopops are DESIGNED and MARKETED to youths.
    2) eCigs have never helped anyone quit smoking. At best they replace an addiction with another
    3) eCigs are no improvement over cigarettes. Look up “popcorn lung”
    4) Big tobacco is not losing any money to eCigs: they are behind eCigs.

    Glad to see these measures being implemented.

  7. You people should be more enthusiastic about these local ordinances, which can do wonders. Just think how calamitous the 4th of July would be were it not for SJ’s ban on fireworks?

  8. I think these articles are designed to out the authoritarians in our midst

    just one more thing to punish people with and I thought you progressives wanted to defund the police and dismantle the oppressions? yet here you are giving your wardens more power


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