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July 12, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Upholding Youth Health: Newark’s Imperative for a Strong Tobacco Retailer Licensing Ordinance

Amidst the battle against tobacco-related illnesses and the proliferation of smoking among youth, local governments must adopt and uphold strong Tobacco Retailer Licensing (TRL) ordinances. The time has come for Newark—now the last jurisdiction in Alameda County—to take decisive action by adopting a robust TRL ordinance. Like all other Alameda County cities, Newark should consider banning all flavored tobacco products. Four out of five youth smokers start with a flavored tobacco product. Flavors, including menthol, appeal to youth users by masking the harshness of tobacco.

According to students from Newark Middle School and Newark Memorial High School surveyed by Bay Area Strength through Activism in 2023, 80% say there is a tobacco retailer they can easily walk to from home. Nearly 3 out of 4 12th graders from Newark Unified School District polled in the 2022-2023 California Healthy Kids Survey believe obtaining vapes is easy. By prohibiting the sale of tobacco near educational institutions or city parks and implementing regular compliance checks and penalties for failing to verify age, TRL ordinances can impede underage access to these harmful substances.

Critics may argue that imposing additional regulations on retailers places an undue burden on businesses. However, the societal costs of tobacco use far outweigh any inconvenience to retailers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking-related illnesses cost the United States billions of dollars annually in healthcare expenses and lost productivity. By reducing smoking rates and preventing the onset of tobacco-related diseases, TRL ordinances can alleviate this economic burden while fostering healthier communities.

The City of Newark needs to send a message that it prioritizes the well-being of its youth over the profits of tobacco retailers. The time for effective and meaningful legislation to impede youth access to tobacco products is upon us.

Cara Kundrat

Newark Middle School PTSA

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