Phoenix Weighs Enforcement, State Legislation In Flavored Tobacco Ban Debate

Published: Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 4:00pm
Updated: Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 8:23am

Before Phoenix leaders take action on a request to ban flavored tobacco, they want more information about enforcement and possible state legislation. 

People in favor of banning flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes and vaping products, claim tobacco companies use flavors to target young people and communities of color. 

People against a ban say it’ll hurt their legal businesses and drive customers to other cities. Opponents also questioned enforcement, an issue Councilwoman Betty Guardado wants to explore.

“So I would also like to see a plan around enforcement and how we would enforce this without putting more pressure on the police department,” she said.

During Wednesday’s public safety subcommittee meeting, Swati Rawani, an attorney for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said at least 300 localities have placed restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco and so far they’ve survived all court challenges.

“Thus, the City Council has clear authority under federal law to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products and does not need to wait for either the state or federal action in order to ban such products,” she said.

Opponents said federal law already bans tobacco sales to anyone under 21 and they argue a ban on flavored tobacco could lead to an underground market where no one regulates how the products are made.

The subcommittee directed staff to research enforcement options, along with bills being proposed at the state Legislature and report back to the group.