The Goleta City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to approve an ordinance banning the sales of flavored tobacco products after several hours of public comment and deliberation.
Councilman Roger Aceves cast the one vote against the ordinance.
The ordinance will go into effect in December, 60 days after the second reading taking place on Oct. 5.
It is modeled after California’s SB 793, which would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide, with some exceptions. While that bill was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in August 2020, a petition collected enough signatures to put it on the November 2022 ballot.
Goleta follows several nearby jurisdictions in passing similar ordinances, such as Santa Barbara County and the cities of Carpinteria, Santa Maria and Guadalupe.
The main goal of the ban is to prevent youths from smoking and getting addicted to the tobacco and nicotine.
“The early years are when these habits are formed, and youth are very vulnerable to nicotine addiction and flavors are very enticing,” said Renata Valladares, program coordinator for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention and Cannabis Education Program. “You may be surprised to know that as a percentage of the population, more youth smoke than adults.”
Valladares presented many examples of vapes and other flavored tobacco products that show apparent targeting towards youths, with bright, colorful packaging and fruit and candy flavors.
While several public commenters spoke in support of the ordinance, others were against the ban, including local smoke shops and individuals in the National Hookah Community Association.
“Why do they want to break the business? There’s only three smoke shops [in Goleta],” said George Farah, owner of Goleta Smoke Shop, which sells only to those age 21 or older. “We all have family. How will we pay the rent? … It’s very, very, very bad, to be honest with you.”
Farah said flavored tobacco products make up a majority of the sales at the shop and that people still will buy flavored tobacco products in Santa Barbara or online.
“I’ve been here 13 years; I’ve never had any tickets,” Farah said. “We are very careful with IDs. … Just give us a chance with the November 2022 [ballot].”
Others opposed the ordinance as it was written, wanting hookah products to be excluded in order to protect the cultural ritual of hookah that originated in the Middle East and India. Many pointed out that all hookah tobacco is considered flavored tobacco since it is made with honey and molasses.
SB 793 does include an exemption for hookah tobacco retailers; however, local ordinances would take precedent over the Senate bill.
Several parents, teachers, doctors, and high school and junior high school students called in to speak in support of the ban during public comment.
“We know that these large companies are profiting off of innocents. Children are becoming addicted at alarming rates,” said Sholeh Jahangir, a Goleta Union School District trustee and a parent. “We know that there’s environmental pollution caused by these e-vapes. Our children are being attacked daily in school. … You have a chance to make history. Do what is right for our children, because they are watching, and they will remember whether you took profit or you took their lives as a priority.”
One student from Goleta Valley Junior High School said she had seen about five fellow students in the school bathroom smoking vapes that they said they had gotten from their parents.
After more than three hours of public comment and back-and-forth deliberation, the City Council voted in support of the ban.
“It really scares me,” Mayor Paula Perotte said. “We have a responsibility to make this right and we can make it, because it is the right thing to do. I did struggle with the hookah thing for a while, but I’m fine leaving the ban as is.”