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January 7, 2014 > Youth Commission campaigns for tobacco restrictions

Youth Commission campaigns for tobacco restrictions

Submitted By Frank Addiego

The Union City Youth Commission campaigned to crack down on teen smoking and attempts to market tobacco-related products to the young consumers through a series of ordinances in 2013. While members of the city council and others have been enthusiastic in support of the youth commissionsÕ efforts, others have criticized commission presentations for using outdated information.

Law enforcement has used teen decoys leading to disciplinary action. Teen decoys and members of the commission spoke before the city council several times in 2013 to describe their efforts. ÒFor the past several months, weÕve been working with the Alameda County Public Health Department in an attempt to gather and spread information about tobacco products available within Union City,Ó said Priscilla Wu of the Youth Commission, speaking at the May 28 city council meeting. ÒOne in nine deaths in the United States are caused by tobacco and within the United States alone, over 443,000 lives are claimed every year.Ó

According to the commissionÕs findings, the tobacco industry has created many products that appeal to young customers, including cigarillosÑshort, thin cigarettes wrapped in tobacco leavesÑand e-cigarettes which emit vapor, promoted as an aid to quit smoking. The commission also discussed products which alter the taste and smell of tobacco products, which one member of the commission contended was clearly intended to appeal to minors.

At a November 26, 2013 meeting of the city council, Jennifer Mish, a Union City resident who owns ÒvaporÓ stores in Hayward selling e-cigarettes, contended, ÒIf you can sit here and tell me that an adult doesnÕt like the flavor strawberry or chocolate, youÕre out of your mind. This isnÕt about children at all.Ó

Youth commissioners have noted that cigarillos were priced as low as 49¢. ÒThe pricing shocked me, as well as the accessibility,Ó said Sonia Chen, a high school senior who has worked as a tobacco decoy.

In response, Michelle Clevenger, speaking on behalf of the tobacco store Refined Deliverance in Oakland, said, ÒAs a store owner, IÕm emotional because I see our hard work and hard efforts at putting a stop to tobacco being undermined. ÒWhen we look at children under the age of 18 who are being exposed to products, that is because of irresponsible retailers.Ó

By the end of the year, the city council had passed an ordinance banning false and misleading advertizing, self-service displays and distributing free cigarettes, e-cigarettes and related paraphernalia within Union City. Electronic cigarettes and their related products are to be kept out of public view and stores are prohibited from displaying advertisements for them.

The ordinance also bans medical marijuana dispensaries, although the city will continue to comply with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, allowing limited use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in California, despite the narcotic being illegal in federal statutes. ÒThe proposed regulations do not preempt a medical patientÕs ability to continue to cultivate, possess or use medical marijuana for serious ailments,Ó said City Attorney Ben Reyes, Òthey just canÕt buy it in a retail setting through a medical marijuana dispensary in the city.Ó

ÒI really applaud your youth commission for working on this effort, but I believe they are somewhat misguided,Ó said Carl Carter of Berkeley speaking at a November 26th meeting of the city council of Union City, Òthere are millions of people using these things and the FDA lists less than fifty people who have been harmed by themÉ one of whom was a gentleman who made e-cigarettes in his garage and it blew up and knocked his teeth out. The rest were hearsay or only possible issues.Ó

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