The Tracy City Council has taken the first steps toward eliminating sales of flavored electronic cigarette and tobacco products in Tracy.
The council, after a discussion at the Dec. 3 regular meeting, told city employees to begin work on an ordinance that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products that many people have claimed target teens and young adults. Vaping devices would not be affected by the proposed ban.
Under California law, people must be at least 21 years old to buy tobacco products.
E-cigarettes have drawn heightened scrutiny in the wake of vaping-related lung injuries across the nation this summer and fall. Those illnesses have been linked to vitamin E acetate added to vaping fluids, especially those containing THC.
Councilwoman Rhodesia Ransom and Councilman Dan Arriola wanted the council to look into banning flavored vaping solutions and had the matter added to this week’s meeting agenda.
At the meeting, Ransom renewed her request for the ban.
“My concern are the e-cigarettes and definitely the flavors, those marketed as flavors,” she said. “Nationally, we’re going to hear more about it, but locally, we have a lot of things going on, including students recently being hospitalized with chest pains.
Tracy Unified School District began warning high school and middle school students about the dangers and consequences of vaping this year, but council members wanted to do more to guard against the products reaching children.
Arriola said he would support a ban on e-cigarette products and flavored tobacco products.
“My intent is to prevent it from being sold to children,” he said.
Ransom said she saw it as a public health issue.
“It’s a growing epidemic that’s actually growing in our community and I would like to make it less accessible,” she said. “We’re starting to see really bad effects and I think it’s a matter of just being proactive and protecting our community. Anything we can do to be able to protect our youth and our community from unknown substances and growing epidemics, that’s my rationale.”
City employees estimated that at least 20 local retailers sold tobacco products but were unsure how many sold vaping supplies.
Councilwoman Veronica Vargas also spoke in support of banning sales of vaping products. She wanted to go a step further with a ban on selling any tobacco products within 600 feet of schools and other areas where kids spend time.
Mayor Robert Rickman said he was in favor of ending sales of flavored tobacco products but didn’t want to restrict vaping devices.
“I think adults should be adults and they can make up their mind what they want to do and there is a state law for selling to kids, but I think we should take the flavored tobacco or solvent out of the mixture,” Rickman said.
The city staff will draft an ordinance to ban sales of flavored tobacco products in Tracy, establish a range of civil and criminal penalties, and create a tobacco retailer licensing program. The council will review the draft and vote on whether it should become law.