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City Prepares Ordinance to Ban Sales of Vaping Products

Oct 03, 2019 11:58AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

A sign posted outside Mira Costa High School

As health concerns about vaping continue to mount, the Manhattan Beach City Council took up the issue on October 1 with a discussion on an "urgency ordinance" banning the sale of vape products.

The city is also looking to ban sales of tobacco products at some point in the future, despite the protests of some local small business owners. 

Speaking at the meeting in favor of the vaping products ban were Mira Costa High School Principal Ben Dale, Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Mike Matthews, Manhattan Beach MIddle School Principal Rose Ahrens, MBUSD school board member Karen Komatinsky, Beach Cities Health District and American Lung Association representatives, and various students - all of whom said that the vaping problem was at a crisis point with teens and youth.

"We need to address this issue, which is at an epidemic level now," said Komatinsky. "Where there is a will, there will continue to be ways to get the product, but we can limit ways to attain it."

Nevertheless, Council Member Suzanne Hadley pointed out that local stores are not necessarily where students are purchasing vape products.  "We all want to do something, and I get that, but I am the one on the council with the youngest kid in school, and I know [kids] don't buy it at stores."

Hadley added that vaping products are more often purchased by kids who get large boxes delivered from Amazon.com (without their parents paying attention or noticing) and sell the products to other students at a markup.

Yet Councilwoman Hildy Stern said that as the awareness of the health risks is growing, the city council has a chance to take action. “Now we have the chance to do something - Let's try to make a difference," she said.

The city council will vote on the urgency ordinance within a matter of weeks. Urgency ordinances do not require multiple council votes, and are able to go into effect without a waiting period.

The council also is gearing up to enact a ban on tobacco sales, a step which members say will show that the city is taking the lead on forward-thinking health initiatives. However, the council heard from several local business owners whose sales would be hurt by a tobacco ban, and council members disagreed on how much notice should be given before the ban takes place. 

Feras Adamo, owner of Manhattan Beach Smoke Shop, said that 90 percent of his sales are tobacco, accessories, and vape products; and a ban on tobacco sales would put him out of business. As the only smoke shop in town, he has many customers from Manhattan Beach, as well as customers from neighboring towns, tourists, and even celebrities, he said. 

Adamo also noted that he only allows customers ages 21 to enter the premises, without exception. "I have an ID fraud detector, I'm very strict on IDs, and I go by the book," he said.

Heather Kim, who with her husband Matthew has owned Manhattan Market for 17 years, said that banning tobacco sales would hurt their business because the customers who come in for cigarettes also buy other items. "When you come in for a pack, you also get your gum, you get your water...It adds up," she said.

Council Member Steve Napolitano proposed delaying a ban on tobacco sales until January 1, 2023 to give stores time to adjust. But Mayor Nancy Hersman said she thought that window was too long, and Manhattan Beach should step forward before then. The time frame for that proposed ban remains under discussion.

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