It's a shame Livermore has to go up against Big Tobacco, with its deep pockets and dedicated spin doctors, in the city's effort to protect children.
On Monday, the Livermore City Council decided to put a referendum on the March 2020 ballot that seeks to overturn an ordinance that would ban sales of all flavored tobacco products and seriously restrict businesses selling electronic smoking devices.
The cost to Livermore taxpayers to put it on the ballot is still unknown, but will more than likely be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Shortly after the ordinance was unanimously approved by the City Council in June, JUUL Labs, the dominant e-cigarette company, responded with a petition-signing campaign seeking a referendum.
Vaping is, unfortunately, very popular with teens in the Tri-Valley and around the country.
For example, the 2017-18 Healthy Kids survey found that 30% of Livermore 11th-graders have used electronic nicotine devices (ENDs) such as electronic cigarettes. The Pleasanton school district's 2017-18 Healthy Kids survey shows the same 30% of Pleasanton 11th-graders have used ENDs.
The popularity has increased dramatically in a short amount of time. The question about e-cigarettes wasn't even included in the 2016-17 Healthy Kids survey.
Tobacco use by teens had significantly decreased over the past few years, which led many parents, politicians and public health advocates to accuse JUUL of specifically targeting teens and fueling a vaping craze to create lifelong customers.
The products do appear to be designed for and marketed to youths. The tobacco is flavored to make it more palatable. There are more than 15,500 flavors of tobacco such as gummy bear, mint, creme brulee, cotton candy and strawberry.
Marketing strategies include heavy use of social media, advertisements featuring young people and free-taste parties.
Seeing this startling trend among young people, the Pleasanton Unified School District trustees wisely approved a recent resolution forbidding tobacco and vaping devices on its campuses and during school-related activities. They also encouraged the Pleasanton community to come together to ensure the health of its young people.
Although marketed as a better alternative to traditional cigarettes because it has fewer toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, vaping is still dangerous. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as many as 450 cases of serious lung disease have been linked to e-cigarette use.
And tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive chemical that immediately alters the biochemistry of the body and brain.
According to Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a Harvard Medical School professor of pediatrics and a tobacco control researcher, "For young people, nicotine addiction can cause substantial damage to the developing brain, including lasting impairment to memory and attention span, and increased psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety."
Parents, educators and health-care providers know vapor is dangerous -- especially for young people.
It is unfortunate that an action taken by the city of Livermore at the behest of the residents is being challenged by people driven solely by financial gain.
Even more unfortunate is that the taxpayers will foot the bill.
Making flavored tobacco and vaping devices less accessible to teens is a laudable effort. We appreciate that the Livermore council didn't roll over and repeal the ordinance with the threat of going up against a well-funded behemoth like JUUL.
Now, Livermore's residents will get to decide.