The Tobacco 21 smoking ordinance went into effect in Flagstaff early this month. According to an online copy of the ordinance, approved on Sept. 1, the sale of tobacco, including electronic cigarette products, to anyone under 21 is now prohibited.
Many locals and organizations around both Flagstaff and Arizona have differing opinions about this new ordinance.
David Morris, vice president of the Arizona Smoke Free Business Alliance (ASFA), said he and his organization are mostly in support of the ordinance.
Morris said ASFA’s core mission is divided into two parts. The first part is to guarantee those not allowed to have access to vapor products continue to not get access. The second part is to ensure people who are allowed to have access to vapor products continue to have access to them.
However, Morris and ASFA had an issue with the lack of a grandfather clause included in the ordinance.
According to the Cornell Law School legal encyclopedia website, a grandfather clause allows those who are already legally able to do something to continue doing so, despite a new law or regulation being passed that would have prohibited them otherwise.
“There could be a 19- or 20-year-old who has been legally vaping as soon as they turned 18, and all of a sudden it is going to become illegal for them to do so,” Morris said.
Other organizations like Arizona Students Aiming for Prevention (ASAP) disagree with the inclusion of a grandfather clause. ASAP is a youth group based out of Flagstaff High School that aims to prevent tobacco use among teens and promote a healthy lifestyle.
“[ASAP does not] fully support the grandfather law because it still gives access to [people between 18 to 20] and permission to continue using tobacco products,” said Nikki White, a senior at Flagstaff High School and member of ASAP. “The purpose of T21 is to eliminate the access.”
Other Flagstaff locals support the new ordinance. Kirsten Nolker, an academic adviser at the Gateway Student Success Center, said she is glad the ordinance has passed because it is a step in the right direction.
“I think [the ordinance] should be nationwide, and there need to be [stricter] laws about vaping and e-cigarettes because of how dangerous they are,” Nolker said.
Flagstaff’s new ordinance comes at the same time as Juul use in teens and young adults is being considered an epidemic, according to a CNBC article.
“I have three younger siblings who are all in high school, and [vaping] wasn’t a thing at all when I was in high school,” Nolker said. “Hearing them talk about how many of their friends do it and how normal it is in school systems is kind of scary.”
According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there were over 3 million e-cigarette users in 2018 among middle and high school demographics. From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use increased 48% in middle school students and 78% in high school students.
However, local businesses, workers and those who do use tobacco and e-cigarette products may adamantly oppose the new ordinance. Tyler Townsend, an employee at Red Star Vapor & CBD, said it is worthless.
“[The ordinance] is completely uncalled for and unnecessary, considering the fact that the way they went about the [ordinance] and getting it passed is borderline, in my opinion, morally wrong,” Townsend said.
The Flagstaff City Council did not clarify whether they would be voting on the bill in their July 2 meeting, Townsend said.
“They’re still being very hushed about it, considering we didn’t even find out about it until two weeks before it took effect, which is over a month after it passed,” Townsend said.
Although the ordinance has only been implemented for a short time, Townsend said sales at Red Star have already declined.
“Considering [the ordinance] went into effect as of Sunday [Sept. 1], it has definitely affected our sales quite a bit,” Townsend said.
Between Sept. 1 and Sept. 3, sales have already dropped 20% compared to the week before, Townsend said.
According to The Washington Post, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored e-cigarettes Sept. 4.
A group called the Coconino Anti-Tobacco Students (CATS) have said they are in full support of Michigan’s new law. CATS is an anti-tobacco youth coalition based out of Coconino High School.
Anastacia Dougi, a senior at Coconino High School and the co-president of CATS, said she thinks banning flavored e-cigarettes is beneficial in preventing kids from using them more.
“A lot of the flavors we’ve seen are mango, mixed berry, mint, chicken and waffles or fruit loops, which is a kids cereal,” Dougi said. “They’re using these candy-like flavors to target youth, because what are youth attracted to? Sweet things.”
Emily Blink, another senior at Coconino High School and member of CATS, said banning these flavors is beneficial for health.
“A lot of these flavors have many chemicals,” Blink said. “In the juice, there are many carcinogens within vapes that can cause cancer.”
According to the American Lung Association, Juuls and other vaping devices harbor toxic chemicals and metals. A few of these include acrolein, carcinogens and diacetyl. The website stated these chemicals can cause lung damage, cancer and popcorn lung.
Although some organizations are in support of Michigan’s new law, ASFA is not. Morris said flavored pods are not the reason youth are attracted to smoking and vaping, therefore it’s not logical to ban these flavors.
“The way I see it is, [Juul] stopped selling flavored pods for their devices in stores about a year ago, and kids are still using Juul,” Morris said. “So, it’s obviously not the flavors that are attracting kids.”
According to an Associated Press article, Juul stopped selling certain flavors in store in 2018, unless a retailer can scan IDs and verify someone is 21. However, all their flavors continue to be sold online.
While visiting several school districts, Morris said he noticed most confiscated e-cigarette devices in high schools contained a high level of nicotine. He said there are two different types of vapor products, and they can be classified as a closed or open system.
Closed system vape products contain about 17 times more nicotine than the open system. Open system liquid has been effective at giving smokers an alternative to cigarettes, Morris said.
“I smoked for 16 years, and I haven’t smoked a cigarette in about six years now … I used open system vaping to do that,” Morris said. “My problem with the closed system vaping products is that it has so much nicotine in it that it gave me almost like a buzz.”
Morris said the buzz he referred to is the primary reason that young adults and kids are using e-cigarettes.
Recently, there have been reports of lung illness caused by vaping. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they, the FDA, state and local governments, and other health partners are investigating an outbreak of lung disease in relation to e-cigarettes. There have already been six deaths and more than 300 cases of illness related to e-cigarette products.
“Those products that they’re using are the products that contain either THC or CBD,” Morris said. “The specific disease that people were getting from this is called lipid pneumonia, [which is] caused when you get anything that is oily based into your lungs, because [they can’t] process that type of stuff.”
The CDC recommends people avoid buying and using e-cigarette products that contain THC, CBD and other cannabinoids.
“I see vapor as a technology that, if it’s used correctly, can end nicotine addiction worldwide forever,” Morris said. “But we can’t do that if we’re creating new nicotine addicts.”