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The state’s Proposed Flavored Tobacco Ban gives Hookah a pass

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The state’s Proposed Flavored Tobacco Ban gives Hookah a pass

LOS ANGELES — In 2019, business owners from the local area started gathering frequently at Arnie Abramyan’s Hookah Lounge in the suburbs of Los Angeles to fight a proposed statewide ban for the sale of flavored tobacco.

From the very Armenian community of Tujunga in the foothills Tujunga, which is located in the foothills of San Gabriel Mountains, Abramyan as well as other hookah stores and cafe owners started spreading information about the ban, which was prompted by the growing epidemic of teens using electronic cigarettes and young adults, could force the business out of business and end an old-fashioned social custom that is believed by many to be an integral part of their culture.

“We were to be collateral harm,” said Abramyan, currently President of the National Hookah Community Association.

The movement was growing as the business owners grew, they hired a lobbyist to travel in Sacramento in order to speak with legislators. They shared YouTube videos on “the long-standing tradition and history” of smoking pipes of water that are common across middle eastern countries. Middle East. Their efforts were rewarded The state legislature passed the ban in August of 2020 and banned the sales of tobacco flavored with flavor, which includes cigarettes flavored with menthol, however, it exempted premium cigars and pipe tobacco in loose form as well as tobacco that is “flavored products of shisha” that is used in hookah pipes.

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The measure never took effect. Big Tobacco quickly launched a referendum campaign and collected enough signatures to present the issue before voters. This month Californians will choose — through Proposition 31 on whether to either uphold or rescind the law which would make it unlawful for brick-and-mortar stores to sell cigarettes with flavored flavors or e-cigarettes as well as other tobacco products with flavors. Gums and gummies that contain nicotine but aren’t recognized by the FDA are also prohibited.

In the event that this law gets held to be valid and polls show that the majority of voters are likely to favor it — California could become the first state to end the rumors of both menthol and flavored vapor cigarettes, which attracted thousands of Black as well as Latino users since the tobacco industry first began selling these products in urban areas about a century ago.

The issue of the reasons California allowed hookah users an exemption, while banning menthol cigarettes, the choice of more than 85 percent of African American smokers, has caused a debate on what tobacco products and which are worthy of protection. Up until recently, attempts to ban menthols were unsuccessful against the ad-hoc strategies employed by tobacco companies, that have slashed billions of dollars in losses by comparing the bans on menthols with racism and the battle against drugs.

The state's Proposed Flavored Tobacco Ban gives Hookah a pass

Anti-tobacco groups warn that the method has become a standard to ward off government intrusion. They denounce the hookah exemption as being the latest instance of business making use of identity politics to continue the profits from a deadly product.

“Hookah is allowed to go without scientific explanation,” said Carol McGruder co-founder and president of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. McGruder who has been fighting for years the battle against tobacco companies due to their “predatory targeting” of Black communities by smoking cigarettes containing menthol and hookahs, says that smoking hookahs is becoming more popular in the eyes of Black young people.

Many youngsters are mistakenly thinking that hookah smoking is not as harmful as other forms of smoking however, experts warn that tobacco smoked via water pipes is the same addictive as cigarettes and is a source of carcinogenic nicotine, tar along with heavy metals.

“They pull out a gorgeous antique hookah pipe , and they declare that hookah is about community and family,” McGruder said. “But it’s really related to money.” Big Tobacco itself has criticized the hookah exemption, claiming it proves laws discriminate on Black as well as Latino smokers, by prohibiting the flavor menthol, and offering “special treatment to the wealthy,” as an ad campaign funded by the tobacco industry claims.

“Prop. 31 will boost crime and create illegal markets, reduce revenues for essential services, and could negatively impact the very communities that its supporters claim they wish to assist,” said Beth Miller who is the representative of”No on Prop 31,” the “No Prop 31″ campaign. Prop 31” campaign.

More than 360 cities that are mainly located around California and Massachusetts have banned the selling of tobacco products with flavored flavors such as e-cigarettes with child-friendly flavors like chocolate milk, strawberry and pink punch that health officials claim provide a pathway to teens to smoke. About half of the regulations limit menthol use, while less than 20 — almost all in California are exempt from hookah tobacco or hookah bars.

In 2021, nearly 80 percent of high school students and more than 75 percent of middle schoolers who used tobacco products within the past 30 days said they had used flavor-infused tobacco as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced. Between 2019 and 2020 the smoking-related lung diseases caused by vaping, also known as EVALI which killed 68 people.

The rise of vaping has provided anti-smoking groups the opportunity to advocate against cigarettes flavored with menthol. They were first invented in the 1920s. Their minty, cool flavor allowed new smokers to adjust to them much more quickly than cigarettes that were not flavored and the industry promoted them as healthier alternatives. As the decade progressed, tobacco companies made a shift towards the Black community, offering free samples to young, hip “communicators” in bars and barbershops. Menthol cigarettes comprise more than three-quarters of the market value, which is $80 billion. U.S. cigarette market.

Reynolds American, the country’s largest producer of menthol cigarettes including Newport and Newport, has been fighting prohibitions on menthol through donations towards the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and other civil rights organizations. In the event that New York City Council proposed the ban on menthol cigarettes in the year 2019, Sharpton cited the case of Eric Garner, a Black man who was killed in the custody of police officers in 2014 when he was stopped for selling cigarettes for sale, single and tax-free in the street.

However, the results of these initiatives came at the cost of a huge loss as public health experts claim. African American men have the most new lung cancer diagnoses in America as per the CDC.

This year, the FDA has announced plans to stop the sale of menthol-flavored cigarettes. It was an announcement that was long-awaited and praised by health officials and Black leaders, as they prepared themselves for an extended legal battle with the tobacco industry, which could put off the ban for a few years.

Since the beginning, anti-smoking advocates have been focusing on menthol, according to Valerie Yerger, an associate professor of health policy at the University of California San Francisco. “Nobody was focusing on hookah smoking,” she added.

But the use of water pipes by youngsters is on the rise in recent years.

At Hookah competitions across in the United States and Europe, contestants battle to build the most intricate water pipe usually with a hip-hop beat. elaborate water pipes, complete with their blazing smoke are frequently included in rap videos.

“It’s another method that the industry has come up with ways to keep the young dependent on this kind of product,” Yerger said.

Hookah vendors claim that prohibitions on all hookahs are harmful to small-scale businesses, a majority of whom are immigrants, and could erase the “rich heritage of culture” by effectively banning hookah pipes that are typically a part of celebrations and celebrations of Arabs, Armenians, Persians and others of Middle Eastern countries. Middle East. They deny the notion that their struggle is solely about money.

“Hookah lounges are a symbol of the local community,” said Rima Khoury, General Counsel for Fumari, the San Diego-based company that manufactures hookah tobacco.

For Abramyan smoking a hookah was a post-dinner ritual that his parents from Iran brought along after they moved from Iran to America during the 80s. The elaborate pipes for water are usually at least a foot tall and take about 20 minutes to put up.

“This is not something that children smoke in bathrooms in the school bathroom,” he said. “We do not want our children to smoke so why shouldn’t my grandpa be allowed to smoke a pipe at home in his yard?”

Bible study groups as well as groups for Bible study and the community Rotary Club chapter meet regularly in his Tujunga hookah lounge Garden on Foothill, which includes gazebos outside for groups and families. “For Muslims who don’t drink alcohol or aren’t a fan of strip clubs it’s a safe area,” he said.

The store he owns just a few blocks away, Munchies Mart, sells hand-crafted hookah pipes and tobacco with flavors like Strawberry Lemonade Orange Pop, and Agua Fresca which is a vast distance from the tobacco soaked with apple that he recalled his Persian grandmother making at home in the kitchen.

Utilizing traditional practices to support public policy exemptions isn’t new, according to Arnab Mukherjea who is an Associate Professor of Public Health at the California State University East Bay.

He also said that communities are often hurt when corporations “use their cultural heritage to sell products to the masses.”

“You visit any town in the college system,” he said, “and the hookah bars are not crowded with religious Muslims but college-aged students who come there to hang out, socialize and consume flavors of cotton candy and bubble gum.”

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