Proposal calls for ban on sale of flavored tobacco in unincorporated areas of LA County

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Menthol cigarettes such as Kools and Newports are among the products targeted in a proposed Los Angeles County ban on the sale of flavored tobacco.

Supervisors will vote Tuesday on a wide-ranging ordinance aimed at both adults and minors. Flavored vaping products and traditional menthol cigarettes would be pulled from shelves in unincorporated areas.

"We have a responsibility to care for them and make sure the environment is safe," says Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who introduced the measure.

One out of three cigarettes sold in the U.S are menthols. Tobacco and vaping products are already unlawful to sell to anyone under 21. But Ridley-Thomas says his ordinance will impose more regulation, enforcement and require merchants to obtain a county business license.

That has triggered a revolt in the vaping industry. Manufacturers of flavored e-cigarettes say that vaping gives tobacco users a way to quit.

"For example, 95% of adult smokers who have converted off combustible tobacco have done it utilizing flavors such as ours," says Ryan Stump, CEO of Charlie's Chalkdust, which makes flavored oils.

Makers of vaping products warn that squeezing out stores that are already regulated will send buyers to the unregulated black market.

"I know what is going into my liquid, so does the FDA. We don't know what is going on in the black market and what kids are being sold on the street," says flavored oil producer Chris Wheeler of Savage Enterprises.

If passed, the ban in unincorporated areas of L.A. County would cover the largest jurisdiction in the nation. The local vaping industry fears a domino effect.

"It is roughly $3 billion in wages that you are affecting in California," says Stump.

A similar ban was implemented in San Francisco last year. A project director says that no holder of a San Francisco tobacco retailer license was put out of business and that neighboring cities are working to impose similar prohibitions so that there is a level playing field.

No date has been set to implement the flavored tobacco ban in L.A. County if the measure passes.
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