LA Flavor Ban Passes Vote: How the Hearing Went Unheard

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September 24, 2019 was a disappointing day for the Vape Industry and community. That morning and through the afternoon, hundreds of vape advocates attended the hearing for the ban of flavored tobacco and nicotine products in Los Angeles, California, filling the entire hall just about three times over. It was a large turnout for the event. Every local news station was present and parked across the street early that morning. 

The meeting began with a tone that foreshadowed the outcome of the vote. The hearing was opened with some speakers who made some very false claims about vaping. As the crowd was subjected to those fabricated statements presented as facts, they became restless and began to make noise in response. They were then told by officials that the citizens would be removed should they demonstrate any irritation moving forward. 

In favor of the vape ban, opposite to the vapers, was a small group of adults and a very large group of school children.  Almost all the children present were pulled from school, permitted by the school district, and chaperoned by a group of teachers. It was later discovered the children were coerced into wearing matching shirts and performing a scripted speech with the promise of pizza and extra credit. They were already given a day free from school to attend. The children were not quiet about it; they chatted about it and laughed while the adults who were attending in opposition of the ban were in proximity. 

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Vape activists still outnumbered those in favor of the ban. Hundreds of these vapers piled in through the hall and one by one, and respectfully and briefly told their stories. Most of the stories being about how vaping saved them, about how they used flavors to quit smoking, and how they are convinced this ban will not achieve anything positive for citizens in the county. Some activists even traveled hours to attend, to support those standing against the ban. 

There were some business owners outside of the industry as well. Hookah Lounge owners, smoke shop owners, and wholesale suppliers for these products. A few Hookah Lounge owners had mentioned in their arguments that Hookah flavors are a part of their culture, and that taking away their ability to sell these products is like restricting a part of their heritage. 

There were very few adults speaking out in favor of the ban comparatively. The statements from the children were uncannily alike, stating simply, “I am in favor of this vape ban”. A couple teachers spoke out saying that they are upset about adolescents vaping, and they are also in support of the ban. 

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After hours of shuffling speakers in and out of the building, officials announced the result of a unanimous vote in favor of the ban late afternoon. In other words, the county supervisors advanced the measure in unincorporated cities of Los Angeles county, and they will be returning for another vote the following week. The ordinance also requires all tobacco shops to gain a county business license for the sale of tobacco that must be renewed every two years. Another measure within the ban also prohibits loitering in vape shops. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas added an amendment that gives businesses 180 days to come into compliance.

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