By Deb Murphy

The one thing members of Bishop City Council agreed on at Tuesday’s meeting was kids shouldn’t have access to flavored tobacco. How to do that was another issue.

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April Eagan, prevention manager for Inyo County’s Women Infant Children Program, had made a full presentation at City Council’s May 13 meeting. The facts are simple: more and younger kids are using flavored tobacco products, either vaped or smoked. These products are basically an introduction to a lifetime of tobacco addiction with more communities looking for a way to keep them out of the hands of kids.

Councilmember Stephen Muchovej cited a study done by RJ Reynolds. When the price of flavored tobacco products went up 10-percent, use dropped by 12-percent. His solution was to slam a harsh tax penalty on sales and use the money for education and after school programs. He also asked about limiting tobacco sales to dedicated tobacco shops with a 21 age limit.

City Attorney Ryan Jones explained the tax would take a voter initiative and limiting place of sales could be looked into.

Councilmember Karen Schwartz was skeptical. “We’re trying to prevent a life-long health issue,” she said. “Legislation isn’t going to work, it hasn’t worked. You can’t legislate human behavior. It has to be through education.”

There are limitations when it comes to law enforcement dealing with minors, Police Chief Ted Stec explained. “I’m strong on education.”

Mayor Jim Ellis hit the nail on the head: “The criminality is in the marketing.”

Another limit to taxing or ordinances was the simple fact Bishop’s authority doesn’t extend beyond city limits. “We need to work with the County,” Ellis said.

The Inyo Board of Supervisors has heard Eagan’s presentation. Jeff Griffiths, who represents Bishop on the Board, said the Supervisors haven’t made a final decision.

Jones brought up policies to ban flavored tobacco in San Francisco and Sacramento and suggested waiting to see the outcome of legal challenges. He said he would look into a special tax on the products.

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