The city is likely to order a ban on selling flavored tobacco products after introducing an ordinance this week.
The ordinance is expected to be formally approved at a later meeting and pre-empt a potential statewide ban of the products’ sale. Councilman Dan Brotman introduced the ordinance this week, after Mayor Paula Devine had asked for it earlier in the year.
“Hopefully this won’t actually be in effect for very long, because there’s a referendum next year,” Brotman said, “and, well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I think it’s likely the voters will support a ban statewide and we’ll be able to just align with that.”
The ordinance would ban the commercial sale of the products, whether natural tobacco cigarettes and cigars or for electronic vaping devices, but not criminalize possession or use of them. Code enforcement and police officers would have authority to conduct checks on the suspected businesses and penalize them according to the city’s code violations.
“We’ve gone over this a few times,” Brotman said. “I think we’re doing the right thing. I think it will make Glendale a better place.”
Officials nationwide have debated such bans as the products have grown in popularity, in large part because they are perceived to be a gateway for teenagers and young adults into cigarette use and addiction. The flavors are often quite strong, enough to mask the relatively unpleasant tobacco flavors, and advocates charge the marketing of the products to obscure their harmful effects.
“We can be a leader amongst the cities in Southern California,” Devine said.
The ordinance does not target hookah tobacco or “premium cigars” costing at least $12. The city initially planned to withhold the ordinance on account of a law passed by the California Senate, but that measure has been delayed as a result of the state referendum.
Councilman Ardy Kassakhian unsuccessfully lobbied to remove the Glendale Police Department as an enforcement arm for the ordinance, expressing a fear that doing so would risk criminalizing young people or tobacco addicts and increasing the likelihood of police encounters “with unintended consequences.”
“I think that our police have enough work to keep them busy as it is,” Kassakhian said. “I just don’t want this to become like marijuana was at one point, when it was a tool of criminalization.”
Brotman said though he understood the concerns, the language of the measure targeted retailers and not users and that he didn’t want to limit enforcement tools. Councilman Ara Najarian echoed the same.
“We’re not going after some kid who’s vaping,” he said. “We’re going after the retailer with a [sales] display.”
Kassakhian said he was still concerned, but ultimately relented as Brotman introduced the ordinance as prepared.
“It’s the best laid plans of mice and men, right?” Kassakhian countered. “It is until it isn’t, until one kid sells…a vape cartridge to a classmate, and they’re in violation.
“I have faith that our police will be cautious and our staff will approach this in the way we intended to,” he added.