The American Cancer Society chided California Wednesday for taking a backseat to Massachusetts in protecting children from tobacco.
"Massachusetts outshines California when it comes to protecting kids from tobacco addiction,'' the society asserted in a statement, noting that Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a law making his state the first in the nation to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products to children.
The ban applies to menthol cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, hookah and cigars.
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"California is once again leaving kids vulnerable to the lure of flavored tobacco products while Massachusetts becomes the leader in addressing the current youth e-cigarette epidemic, now one of the nation's biggest public health threats," according to the statement.
Jim Knox, the managing director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in California, said that "while the California Legislature missed opportunity after opportunity this year to help bring a halt to the youth e-cigarette epidemic, more than 30 cities and counties in this state and now Massachusetts have staked a claim as leaders in the fight against the tobacco industry."
He said Massachusetts emulated 34 cities and counties in California, starting with San Francisco and including Sacramento and Los Angeles County, that passed similar all-encompassing flavored tobacco sales restrictions to safeguard kids "from a potential lifetime addiction to nicotine."
Knox added that "it is a travesty that some kids are shielded in California and some kids are not. Every child in every city deserves protection from Big Tobacco. Unprotected kids live in the City of Los Angeles, and in the City and County of San Diego."
According to Knox, "The City of Los Angeles will finally take up a proposed ordinance to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco on December 5th and we hope San Diego City and County will follow suit shortly after the first of the year. Our kids have been waiting far too long."
He said any flavored tobacco ordinances considered must follow the recommendations of City Attorney Mike Feuer. ``That means they must include menthol and mint, which are popular among youth because the flavors mask the harsh taste of tobacco, as well as include all tobacco products including menthol cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco and hookah.
"Will the City of Los Angeles do the right thing for our kids or will they give an early Christmas present to Big Tobacco?" he asked.