Home Entertainment Hookah companies are shocked when LA targets flavored tobacco

Hookah companies are shocked when LA targets flavored tobacco

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In front of the light tower of Los Angeles City Hall, Janet Azhand gave a passionate speech A farce, surrounded by hookah vendors with signs urging officials to save the Hookah and Preserve our culture.

“The hookah is not a vape,” Azhand, who works at the hookah lounge, later told the reporter in English. “They don’t understand.”

In Los Angeles, an attempt to separate tobacco shelves from tobacco products with added sweet, mint, or fruity flavors has come across hookah vendors who claim it can destroy the cherished tradition of Armenians, Arabs, and other communities where the hookah has been the centerpiece of gatherings and celebrations.

Under the proposal, LA could ban companies from selling many flavored tobacco products, which is meant to prevent teens from getting nicotine. The Youth and Public Health Association supports the ban, arguing that flavored products have attracted more teenagers to use tobacco, including by steaming with electronic cigarettes.

Fruity, sweet and smooth flavors are “a new and attractive dispensing system that gets kids hooked on nicotine,” councilor Mitch O’Farrell said at a city hearing a year and a half ago. “And that’s bad. There’s no doubt about that.”

Most recently, when the matter was heard in City Hall more than a year ago, council members proposed allowing a portion of flavored tobacco to be sold in on-site lounges, but hookah vendors say the plan is still too restrictive and does not allow lounges to be passed on to future generations. It also does not allow people to buy hookah tobacco for smoking at home.

For Muslims who don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, “they can’t go to a bar to socialize,” said Hrant Vartzbedian, director general of the national hookah community of Assn. Vartzbedian said the “hookah lounge is a safe place for them” – a place where new immigrants go to make friends, find work and maybe even meet a future spouse.

At the last meeting, members of the Council also proposed the release of certain menthol cigarettes, concerned about the unfairness of black consumers who disproportionately smoke mint-flavored products.

As hookah vendors gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday morning, groups opposing a ban on menthol cigarettes gathered nearby, holding up signs saying “Release one frees everyone” and “Hookah is cultural … Isn’t menthol?” Pastor William Smart Jr., president and CEO of the Southern California Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said it was unfair to ban mentors favored by black smokers and allow other cigarettes to continue to be sold.

“Banning menthol brings out the colors,” claimed Olivia Barbour, a 71-year-old resident of the Westmont neighborhood. “If they’re so worried about our health, ban everyone” – all kinds of tobacco, he said.

Proponents of the proposed ban, including the American Cancer Society, have opposed exemptions for menthol or hookah tobacco and insisted that a general ban on spice tobacco is necessary to prevent youth addiction.

“Products that flavor candy, fruit, and mint attract children to potential tobacco addiction,” says Primo J. Castro, a LA spokesman for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. “We need bold action to fight this epidemic. We need to remove store shelves from flavored tobacco – and that includes all flavors and products.”

While some community groups have opposed efforts to ban menthol in a discriminatory manner, others see the real problem in the tobacco industry, which uses black consumers. Pastor John Cager of Ward AME Church said the alleged concerns about justice were a “straw man’s claim” that “Big Tobacco wants to use to disrupt.”

There’s “the idea that it’s somehow racist to target a product that has killed black people,” said Akili, a longtime activist with one name who works as a project coordinator with corporate responsibility. “It’s not about segregating black smokers. This is an industry that has targeted black smokers … and has had devastating results. “

Nicotine-containing flavored steam products will fill the Los Angeles store shelf in 2019.

(AFP / Getty Images)

Many California cities and counties have exceeded restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco, including San Francisco, West Hollywood and Long Beach. The decision to draft such a law in Los Angeles, which is due to come to city council on Wednesday, will come after California law on such products is suspended and a state referendum backed by the tobacco industry has now gone to the vote.

Hookah companies have argued that the LA law should reflect a bill passed by California last year that allows the sale of “flavored shisha tobacco products” from retailers that comply with state laws.

The hookah is “all 3 meters. They are very difficult to encrypt. You don’t see hookahs being confiscated in schools, ”said Rima Khoury, a general advisor to hookah producer Fumar. “It’s hard to see how cultural tradition can be eliminated in the name of saving children when it’s not even a problem for young people to use.”

Afif El-Hasan, a national spokesman for American Lung Assn, objected that a hookah session could lead to a much stronger exposure to nicotine than lighting a cigarette and pose the same risk of attracting children with a sweet taste. One study found that about a quarter of students who had ever used nicotine products started with a hookah. Teenagers have said they like a hookah because it comes to their pleasant tastes, another study found.

“Kids aren’t going to sneak a hookah into the bathroom,” he said at school, “but the fact is that using the product promotes nicotine addiction, which can lead people to acquire other sources of nicotine between sessions.”

Lisa Lu, 18, founder of the non-profit International Youth Tobacco Control in Burbank.

Lisa Lu, 18, founder and chairman of the nonprofit International Control of Young Tobacco Products and National Youth Ambassador for the Tobacco-Free Children Campaign, is posing for a portrait in Burbank.

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Tobacco companies, including Reynolds American, Swedish Match and Altria, have spent more than $ 500,000 on lobbying and related spending under the proposed rules since early 2020, according to city reports.

Reynolds spokesman Kaelan Hollon said the company is “committed to keeping tobacco products out of the hands of young people,” but said the taste bans have “shown unintended consequences.” A statistical analysis found that San Francisco’s taste ban was associated with a recent increase in cigarette smoking among high school students, while adolescent smoking decreased in school districts without taste languages ​​over the same period.

Non-smoking children and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, for their part, have spent more than $ 300,000 on efforts to promote the proposed ban over the same period, including the cost of consulting fees.

Lisa Lu, the national youth ambassador for the Tobacco-Free Children Campaign, argued that flavored tobacco had influenced teen use of tobacco because it is “very attractive to young children.” In one study, most young people who said they had ever used tobacco said they started with a taste.

“It makes it look harmless,” Lu said, citing flavors like cotton candy and slushie. “It kind of despises the usual disadvantages of tobacco.”

Gamer Aghajani, 28, left, and Mampreh Zadoorian, 28, will share a hookah at the Garden on Foothill Lounge in Tujung on June 3, 2021.

Gamer Aghajani, 28, on the left, and Mampreh Zadoorian, 28, share a hookah at the Garden on Foothill Lounge in Tujunga. Hookah companies are concerned about the LA proposal for flavored tobacco products.

(Myung J.Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Menthol has also been linked to greater difficulties in quitting smoking. And according to a study published in 2016, young smokers are more likely to have used menthol cigarettes than older consumers.

LA is discussing a possible ban because restrictions on spiced tobacco vary at the federal and state levels. The Food and Drug Administration announced in April that it plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. California lawmakers voted in favor of a state-wide ban on many flavored tobacco products last year, but a law signed by Govin Newsom was suspended following a referendum in a November 2022 referendum.

At the last hearing on the LA proposal, some residents argued that banning menthol would lead to the criminalization of black people. City Atty. Mike Feuer stressed that any LA ban would apply to the sale of such products, not their use.

Nevertheless, the Council committee decided to exempt some menthol cigarettes from the proposed ban, allowing them to be resold in retail outlets that sell only tobacco products. O’Farrell recommended that they also create an exemption for existing “legally operating smokers,” allowing them to sell flavored tobacco for consumption on the spot.

Hookah tobacco vendors argued that the exemption was not legally enforceable in living quarters and argued that it was unfair to prohibit the transfer of permits for the sale of flavored tobacco in a hookah lounge.

Arnie Abramyan, President of the National Hookah Community Assn. and the owner of the Tujunga hookah lounge complained that under that rule, “when I die, the business dies with me.”

The vote on Wednesday is not the last step: If the city council votes to draft a proposed ban, city lawyers will draft it and return to the council for approval.

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