Redondo takes light touch on tobacco ban

The City of Redondo Beach is taking steps to discourage tobacco and electronic smoking use, though its tack appears to be less severe than that taken by neighboring Manhattan Beach.

On Tuesday night, the Redondo Beach City Council directed staff to begin work on an anti-tobacco program that includes banning smoking and electronic smoking devices (also known as vapes) in public and creates a tobacco retailer license.

Anti-tobacco ordinances have been an interest of Mayor Bill Brand since his time as District 2’s Council representative.

“Everyone’s got to die of something, but you don’t need to die of lung cancer at an early age,” Brand said, referring to the death of his mother to cancer at age 55. “Especially kids – you’re developing lungs, brains, and I can’t imagine doing more harm singularly to yourself than smoking cigarettes. But hey, it’s a free country too.”

As the Beach Cities Health District representative Lauren Nakano noted, a recent Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index indicates that smoking rates have fallen to 6.8 percent of the Redondo Beach population.

Asian-American Drug Addiction Program representative Carol Almeda read a letter from Madison Bacon, who went undercover to help survey local tobacco retailer sales. That survey showed that of 48 Redondo Beach tobacco retailers, 10 percent were willing to sell tobacco to minors, and 26 percent were willing to sell vapes to minors.

Bacon was initially worried to participate but motivated by civic pride.

“It’s important to see the flaws in the things we love so that they can improve,” Bacon wrote.

Tobacco’s effect on minors was a key to the discussion. According to the California Healthy Kids survey, 3 percent of Redondo 11th graders smoke tobacco, while 24 percent vape.

That led to Councilman Christian Horvath’s strict proposal to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco and vape products, ban public smoking, and create licenses and distance and density restrictions on retailers. The proposal was very similar to one imposed by Manhattan Beach in 2014.

Horvath’s feelings were summed up to a tobacco retailer who touted a secret shopper program and training for employees to prevent underage sales.

“I think if everyone was like you, this wouldn’t be an issue we’re facing,” Horvath said. “But not everyone is like you.”

Councilman John Gran substituted a lighter touch, which was friendlier to retailers and played better with the more conservative sensibilities of Council members Laura Emdee and Nils Nehrenheim.

“The schools need to get on [tobacco awareness] ASAP – parents, educators, the district themselves. If kids are vaping in the bathroom or hiding it and it’s a problem, the district and parents need to take care of it,” Nehrenheim said.

“To put it on the parents is difficult; I get what you’re staying, it starts at home, but it’s a concerted effort, and it takes a village,” Loewenstein countered.

Horvath and Loewenstein continued to push for the more robust ban, arguing that it’s easier to cut language at a future public hearing than it is to add restrictions.

However, Gran’s motion won the day and received unanimous approval as Horvath and Loewenstein realized their argument had failed. The ban will come back at a future public hearing.


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