A referendum challenging Livermore’s recent ban on the sale of flavored tobacco within the city limits is on the City Council's Sept. 9 meeting agenda, just two months after the council unanimously adopted the new city ordinance.
Livermore was the second city in California to ban selling flavored tobacco and flavored vapor liquids in its borders; San Francisco was the first in 2018.
The local ordinance would prohibit sales of all tobacco products within 1,000 feet of a “youth-populated area,” add strict limits for businesses selling vaping paraphernalia and establish the city’s first ever tobacco retailer license program. All electronic smoking device sales were banned with the exception of new products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as sales of vaping fluids, unless they were non-flavored.
City clerk Sarah Bunting confirmed the agendization to the Weekly in an email Friday, and said that “the City Council will adopt a resolution accepting the city clerk’s certification of sufficiency of signatures on the petition” backed by Bay Area vapor product company JUUL Labs. Council members could either change their decision on the ordinance and rescind it, or let voters decide in either a regular or special election, according to Bunting.
On Aug. 20 the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ Office confirmed enough signatures had been collected on the referendum petition. The petition needed at least 5,269 valid signatures to qualify.
But local anti-tobacco group Flavors Addict Kids-Livermore said they’ll continue to fight the battle in their hometown.
“We definitely want to keep the ordinance, we believe in it,” said member Kristie Wang. “We would like to see the City Council bring it to a vote.”
Flavored tobacco and vaping has grown in popularity, according to Wang, who cited a local study that found one in three Livermore teens has used e-cigarettes. “My kids say they see more vaping happening more than ever, and it’s something that’s very real for us,” she said. “For a company like JUUL to come in and overturn what the city has asked for...we’re going to fight it.”
Wang said she “thought this was a one-and-done” with the ordinance’s passage this summer, adding, “I didn’t think it would turn into this big thing, and that we’d be fighting big tobacco.”
In late July nearly 100 people rallied against the JUUL-backed petition at Flagpole Plaza; Flavors Addict Kids-Livermore will ask the council at its next meeting to uphold the ordinance and put it to a vote in March.
Previously, JUUL representatives said that a referendum will “give the voters a say on this critical matter of public health” while still giving adult smokers alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
"Our goal is to work constructively and cooperatively with Livermore city and community leaders on a responsible solution that prevents youth access to vapor products while providing reasonable access for adult smokers who seek an alternative to combustible cigarettes,” spokesman Ted Kwong said in a statement.
Pleasanton youths have taken a cue from the Livermore community and recently presented their own resolution to the Pleasanton school board, asking for support to warn and educate their peers about the health risks of vaping and flavored tobacco use.