At its meeting on Tuesday, the El Monte City Council unanimously passed the first reading of an ordinance that will ban the sale of flavored tobacco products within the city, and despite the potential of a lawsuit over it, the city manager said the ordinance will move forward.
“Of course we will continue to move forward,” Alma K. Martinez, El Monte’s city manager, told halfwheel. “Sometimes it takes local governments to send a powerful message from the grassroots up to state and federal officials before they will take similar action.”
The ordinance would prohibit the sale of any tobacco or nicotine product that offers a characterizing flavor, including menthol and mint as well as fruit, candy and other flavors. A second hearing has not yet been set, but if passed, it would go into effect 15 days after its publication, meaning a sudden change for the 106 tobacco retailers in the city.
The passage of the first reading of El Monte’s ban comes the same week as Edina, Minn. both passed and was sued for its flavored tobacco ban, and just a few weeks after Los Angeles County was sued for its ban. Both of those lawsuits were filed by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, American Snuff Company, LLC, and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, Inc.
The complaints claim that local municipalities are prohibited from enacting such bans by the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the 2009 federal law which empowers the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. They claim it contains language that prohibits state and local governments from enacting and standards or laws that either differ from or add on to federal law.
Additionally, the complaint says that such bans stand as an obstacle to the purposes of federal law, which are to promulgate tobacco product standards that can be used at the national level. It notes that Congress and FDA have already established that “certain tobacco products, particularly menthol cigarettes, should remain available to adult users of tobacco products.”
El Monte is part of Los Angeles County, located approximately 18 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It is home to just over 115,000 residents.