Sacramento Businesses Voice Concerns About Potential Flavored Tobacco Ban

SACRAMENTO -- Sacramento City Council is considering a plan that would ban all sales of flavored tobacco products within the city.

From the time Dilbir Chahal came to the United States 16 years ago, he’s been trying to work hard and save up. Eventually, he bought a smoke shop in South Sacramento.

Most of his revenue today comes from flavored tobacco and vaping products. They’re keeping him afloat.

But Chahal may soon have to rethink his business model.

The City of Sacramento is considering a move to ban all flavored tobacco from being sold in the city and regulate how many tobacco shops are allowed to operate within short distances of each other.

"We’ve seen in our high schools and sometimes even our middle schools kids vaping and people are just really concerned," said Councilman Steve Hansen.

At a meeting packed with apprehensive store owners, council members made the argument manufacturers of flavored tobacco are intentionally targeting minors with kid-friendly flavors and attractive devices.

"Those are what the FDA identified as the key thing that are enticing young people into not only to vape but to start smoking," Hansen said.

"If you just pick a mango flavor, you don’t pick the tobacco flavor. You don’t realize as a child what that is," said Dr. Elisa Tong with UC Davis Health.

Many studies link vaping as a teen to smoking as an adult. One Yale University study found teens who vape are seven times more likely to smoke cigarettes later.

Tong says the risk of nicotine addiction among teens should outweigh local business interests.

"What we heard today from council members was they need to rethink their business model and not depend on a product that appeals to children as their market," Tong said.

"We don’t have any kids coming to this store. Mainly our clientele is 30 to 45 years old," Chahal said.

Chahal agrees that advertising tobacco to youth is wrong. But he says store owners in Sacramento shouldn't be punished for big tobacco’s mistakes.

"They don’t even know how these store owners survive," he said.

Four council members already shared their views that they support the ordinance. They did say they want to hear from business owners about alternative plans and they’d be willing to hear what they have to say.