Rally backs Livermore's flavored tobacco ban as referendum petition looms

City supporters decry e-cig juggernaut JUUL pursuing petition to overturn ordinance

Crowd begins to gather at Flagpole Plaza in downtown Livermore ahead of rally in support of city's new ordinance regulating flavored tobacco and electronic smoking paraphernalia. (Photo by Jeremy Walsh)

The city of Livermore has taken aim at teen vaping -- and might well find itself squaring off against the e-cigarette industry as a result.

Nearly 100 people of all ages gathered downtown on Tuesday morning in support of the new city ordinance set to take effect next week that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco in Livermore, as well as severely restrict businesses from selling electronic smoking paraphernalia and establish a city tobacco retailer license program for the first time.

But as the rally was getting underway, news filtered through the group that Bay Area vapor product company JUUL Labs could be on its way to submitting a referendum petition with enough signatures to force the City Council to back off its ban or put the issue on a citywide ballot.

"We want healthy kids. We don't want kids addicted to nicotine," Jannell Gladen, co-founder of Flavors Addict Kids-Livermore, said in remarks to open the rally at Flagpole Plaza.

"Now big tobacco has come into Livermore, and unfortunately I've just heard they collected enough signatures," Gladen told the group. "We won't stand for it. The parents won't stand for it. The community won't stand for it."

A spokesperson from San Francisco-based JUUL confirmed to the Weekly that they have surpassed the threshold of 5,269 signatures needed to qualify for a referendum and they plan to continue obtaining more signatures on their petition while exploring other options to counteract what they see as an ill-conceived and unpopular policy.

"The full prohibition of vapor products is widely opposed by San Francisco voters, San Francisco opinion leaders, and public health experts across the country and world. Despite that, the city of Livermore has rushed a similar ban into law with minimal public input or consideration," the JUUL statement read.

"We are exploring all options, including a potential referendum to give the voters a say on this critical matter of public health, because there are ways to fight youth access of vapor products while recognizing that adult smokers should have access to alternatives, since cigarettes still kill 40,000 Californians every year," the statement added.

The referendum petition had not been filed with the city as of Tuesday afternoon. The proponents would have until Aug. 8 -- the day that the new ban would go into effect -- to submit their petition. Signature verification by Alameda County election officials would follow, to ensure the names were of registered Livermore voters, before the council's hand would be forced.

With parent and education leaders among those demanding action to confront teen vaping in Livermore, council members held a lengthy public debate on proposed new tobacco regulations on June 24 and confirmed their support with a second reading and final adoption on July 8.

The new ordinance outright bans the sale of all flavored tobacco within the city limits, as well as creates a new prohibition of the sale of all tobacco products within 1,000 feet of a "youth-populated area."

Additionally, the new regulations include a ban on the sale of all electronic smoking devices (unless it is a new product approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) as well as prohibits selling electronic smoking/vaping fluids that are flavored (FDA-approved fluids could be sold only if non-flavored).

The ordinance also establishes a new tobacco retailer license program in the city to be overseen by the Livermore Police Department.

The city reports having 71 tobacco retailers currently operating, mainly grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations. The council confirmed the license fee prices during its meeting Monday night: $1,005 for new licenses; $969 for a license renewal.

Standard ordinances are written to take effect 30 days after the council adoption while allowing critics that lag time to pursue a referendum petition if desired.

And Livermore residents have been encountering signature-collectors around town in the days after the council adoption, with the Aug. 8 referendum deadline looming.

In a show of force for the city ordinance they helped inspire, local residents and community leaders gathered at Flagpole Plaza at South Livermore Avenue and First Street in downtown to generate more public support for their cause.

Rally-goers held signs like "Nicotine hooks Livermore kids" and "Stop Big Tobacco. Stop JUUL" as well as poster boards highlighting candy-like vaping flavors that often stock shelves.

Other speakers included the Livermore Indivisible citizen group, local students and Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District officials, including the principals of all three high schools.

"Vaping is like candy. Vaping will kill us at an early age, just like smoking," Granada High School student Regina Molitoris said. "We're here to urge you to help keep the ordinance alive, so we as teenagers and you will not get addicted to vaping and smoking by the 'Big Tobacco' companies."

Of the flavored tobacco industry, LVJUSD school board president Craig Bueno added, "It is fundamentally wrong. As a community, we're doing the right thing. This is Livermore. We're smart. Let's continue to do the right thing. Say no to it. Keep fighting it."

Pleasanton is among the Bay Area communities keeping a close eye on what happens with the Livermore referendum. The Pleasanton Youth Commission has listed vaping prevention as a priority for the year and commissioners are working with city staff on potential regulation recommendations to the City Council while city officials continue to track the aftermath of the ordinance in Livermore.

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6 people like this
Posted by MikeS
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 31, 2019 at 7:45 am

Don't sign petitions using paid signature gatherers! If the residents really want a change, the petition effort will be 100% resident driven. Special interest groups are trying to control Livermore. One funded by big tobacco, the other by big money. Both efforts use the same mercenaries to do their dirty work :(

3 people like this
Posted by Shirley C.
a resident of Country Fair
on Jul 31, 2019 at 10:32 am

So why not just raise the legal age to buy tobacco to 21? There goes your teen smoking dilemma. You know, just like raising the legal drinking age to 21 made it absolutely impossible for underage kids to buy booze...right?

The nanny state/helicopter mommy crowd never ceases to amaze me with their naivate & short sided, knee jerk reactions. You all do realize that the e-cig industry is LOATHED by big tobacco because they are taking money out of their pockets. By banning e-cigs you are just bringing new smokers back to RJ Renoylds. Congratulations!

4 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Jul 31, 2019 at 11:19 am

James Michael is a registered user.

E-cigs, nay. Pot, yea. Did you ever think you'd see the day?

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 31, 2019 at 11:51 pm

Where do you think ecig companies are getting funding?
Guess who funds Native American casinos? Vegas fights them until they realize they're going to happen, then they fund them

Like this comment
Posted by Jesse VapeMentors
a resident of Dublin
on Aug 1, 2019 at 11:14 am

If you’re scared about teens getting addicted to cigarettes, why now ban cigarettes?

If you’re worried about “candy flavors” attracting kids to adult products, why not ban flavored alcohol?

If you’re worried about big money influencing public opinion, have you asked yourself who the anti tobacco groups are funded by?

The definition of fake outrage, exacerbated by poorly informed people.

Banking vaping will kill adults. But no one cares about adults.

It all makes sense if you don’t think about it.

1 person likes this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Aug 1, 2019 at 11:26 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

What a complete joke.

Tobacco is legal.
Marijuana is legal.
Vaping is fast becoming illegal?

There is something wrong with government decision makers.

Either ban them all or make them all legal.

Those (Government) who have the 'vapors' over vaping but do nothing when it comes to cigarettes or pot are hypocrites of the worse sort.

My guess is they KNOW that vaping is way less harmful then smoking tobacco and pot and see an end to heavy taxation and sustained revenues and they can't do it.

Government says they want you to quit smoking, and once a method is created to stop smoking, now wants to quash that way. They want you to smoke combustibles because it means $'s for them.

Wake up.

4 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 1, 2019 at 11:34 am

I'd support banning cigarettes. We already raised the age limit to 21 to be similar to alcohol purchases. If you want to ban cigarettes, you'll get my vote. You'd get my vote on raising taxes on cigarettes too if you don't want to all out ban them....but in tax happy Ca we fall 36th on the list of states and taxes.....hmmm....that doesn't make sense.

Cigarettes are unhealthy
Teens are getting hooked on them
Why not raise the age and the taxes on them to make it less affordable for anyone, but especially teens to access them. While also feeding Ca tax addiction.

Oh.....wait, it disproportionately applies a tax to a specific socioeconomic group with a specific voting alignment? Interesting......

I'd also support a ban on flavored alcohol. I don't need fruit in my beer, and anybody drinking cotton candy vodka looks as foolish as someone blowing a pink vape cloud of the same flavor.

Vaping is the equivalent as "rolling coal" in my opinion. You just look stupid doing it. At least older cigarette smokers have the excuse of not knowing better and being addicted vs the generation of those starting today. No excuses, just pure morons.

Now, you could expand this to alcohol and you'd be right to do so....why is one sin better or worse than another. I don't smoke, so clearly I'm biased, and maybe thats enough of a justification today.....or maybe its the degree of chemical addiction between the two vs behavioral....I don't know. Either way....Beer/Wine > cigarettes/vaping

2 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 1, 2019 at 11:36 am

e-cigarettes and vaping are consumables......and they could be just as easily taxed.

Like this comment
Posted by Kristie W.
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 1, 2019 at 10:07 pm

Thank you, MikeS. You are totally right. It's unfortunate that big money is have outsized influence in Livermore that is circumventing the will of the people, achieved through our democratic process. And people who don't agree resort to name-calling and aggressive language to attack people who are just trying to benefit society.

Like this comment
Posted by Dale Parks
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2019 at 12:23 pm

My side job is gathering petitions. The issue to me does not matter. Please support paid petitioners like myself and sign anything and everything. After all you are not voting for it. Once it makes the ballot vote how you feel.

2 people like this
Posted by James Michael
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 6, 2019 at 1:22 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

Why would any sane person "sign anything and everything"? Time to get a real job Dale.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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