Urged on by LGBTQ+ Activists, California Cities Weigh Stricter Smoking Guidelines

Stephanie Stephens

California has lengthy been on the forefront of the battle towards smoking, however some native officers within the San Francisco Bay Area, backed by activists who’re particularly involved about excessive charges of smoking within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, are spearheading proposals to additional limit how tobacco is bought and the place it’s smoked.

In town of Vallejo on the northeastern fringe of San Pablo Bay, Council member Peter Bregenzer is main an effort to crack down on smoke outlets, which he says make it a lot too simple for kids to smoke and vape. In Oakland, Council member Dan Kalb is weighing a brand new ordinance that may lengthen smoking bans to all residence and condominium buildings, in addition to bar patios.

The advocacy group LGBTQ Minus Tobacco, following a profitable push in close by Concord, is among the many backers of the Vallejo ordinance, and can be pushing for San Francisco and Oakland to ban outside smoking at bars.

Joseph Hayden, a Vallejo resident and a volunteer with LGBTQ Minus Tobacco, stated the time is correct for town to behave.

“Some people have told me they’d ban it all — tobacco sales — if they could, like Manhattan Beach and Beverly Hills,” stated Hayden, who can be a volunteer with Tobacco Free Solano. “We want to be sure this [ordinance] has teeth.”

Christina Lee, a spokesperson for Vallejo, stated the City Council would possible vote on the measure this summer time after a public discover interval. The metropolis held an informational workshop for tobacco retailers in February, notifying them by e mail, however nobody attended, she added.

The National Association of Tobacco Outlets didn’t reply to requests for remark from KFF Health News.

California was the primary state to ban smoking in all indoor public areas and workplaces, in 1995, and later it raised the authorized age for tobacco purchases to 21 from 18. In 2022, the state’s voters handed a ballot measure affirming a ban on flavored vapes, menthol cigarettes, and different merchandise.

But antismoking activists need to see extra motion on the native stage, particularly with regards to holding cigarettes and vapes out of the arms of youngsters. A robust push is coming from anti-tobacco campaigners within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, which has greater charges of smoking than the inhabitants at giant and traditionally has been a goal of tobacco business advertising.

One sore level is the infamous 1995 R.J. Reynolds effort referred to as Project SCUM (Sub-Culture Urban Marketing) marketing campaign, which was aimed toward promoting extra cigarettes in San Francisco’s Castro district, a largely homosexual neighborhood, and within the low-income Tenderloin district.

The FDA has lengthy acknowledged that sure populations, together with the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, usually tend to smoke than others and has tailor-made public well being messaging to these teams. From 2016 to 2020, the company’s Center for Tobacco Products ran a tobacco prevention campaign that featured drag queens from the fact sequence “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

However, within the 2023 California Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.4% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported present tobacco use, properly above the 6.4% reported by non-LGBTQ+ respondents.

Research means that the pressures related to belonging to a gaggle that faces discrimination are possible a reason for the excessive smoking charges. A overview of smoking research within the journal LGBT Health lately discovered that “internalized queerphobia,” perceived stigma, and prejudice all elevated the chance of cigarette use.

Smoking will also be caught up within the id of LGBTQ+ individuals who affiliate it with the rejection of typical mores, stated Brian Davis, venture director for LGBTQ Minus Tobacco.

“Queer young people may even connect queerness and smoking,” he stated.

In Vallejo, Bregenzer, who’s homosexual and stated smoking killed his father, is motivated partly by a want to guard the LGBTQ+ neighborhood. He’s additionally involved about youth smoking, particularly flavored vapes, which attraction to kids and are unlawful to promote in California however can typically be present in smoke outlets.

“Youth want to feel cool and fit in, and cherry- or grape-flavored tobacco products may mask the taste they don’t like,” he stated.

Bregenzer’s proposed Tobacco Retail License ordinance would ban the sale of all vapes and all flavored merchandise not lined by the state legislation, in addition to 99-cent cigars. It would additionally require tobacco retailers to pay a yearly price for use for youth decoy operations and different enforcement mechanisms.

Vallejo’s smoking drawback is obvious within the colleges. Heena Bharti, a tenth grader who doesn’t determine as LGBTQ+, stated she’s seen vape smoke rise behind her classroom. She deftly brushes off stress to vape with a “No thanks, I’m OK.”

Almost 31% of public colleges in Vallejo are inside 1,000 ft of a tobacco retailer, in keeping with the February 2024 California Tobacco Health Assessment Tool. The 2021-22 California Healthy Kids Survey reported that 37% of Vallejo City Unified School District juniors stated getting cigarettes was pretty or very simple, and 60% stated that was true of e-cigarettes.

Bar patios are one other frontier for native activists. Davis stated greater than 100 California cities, together with Vallejo, already require bar patios to be smoke-free, and a high precedence for his group is to have San Francisco and Oakland be a part of that group of cities.

“The tobacco industry uses bars to target queer people by offering event sponsorships, bar promotions, giveaways, coupons, and advertising,” Davis stated.

Not everybody within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood is on board with the brand new guidelines. Tony Jasinski, board president of the San Francisco Gay Basketball League, referred to as Davis’ push to make bar patios smoke-free a “nanny-state” proposal that didn’t take into account the impact on companies in a letter to the San Francisco Chronicle in December.

Jasinski advised KFF Health News that such bans drive vacationers away and ship the message that “we are over-legislated against choice.”

Kalb, the Oakland Council member, doesn’t see it that approach.

“It’s weird we already don’t allow smoking in outdoor seating areas of restaurants, but somehow if you’re just drinking, it’s OK?” he stated.

This article was produced by KFF Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially impartial service of the California Health Care Foundation. 

KFF Health News is a nationwide newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about well being points and is among the core working packages at KFF—an impartial supply of well being coverage analysis, polling, and journalism. Learn extra about KFF.


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