Earlier this month, Long Beach implemented a ban throughout the city on the sale of most flavored tobacco products. The move means electronic smoking devices like vape pens and e-cigarettes with flavor products are no longer allowed to be sold in the city.
"Vaping is a known health risk and can lead to Vaping Associated Pulmonary Illness," Anissa Davis, city health officer, said earlier this month. "We must protect our community, especially our youth, through education and action."
For Wilson High School senior Ava Carbonara, the ban is a win.
"Too many young people have access to tobacco products, and flavored products are more desirable for kids," she said. "Without those (flavored) options, kids might go without smoking altogether."
Carbonara has made it her mission to inform her peers about the risks of smoking tobacco products since she was a sophomore at Wilson. She joined the Youth Leaders for Tobacco Control — a youth leadership program through the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services — where she participated in events and workshops that bring awareness to the dangers or prolonged tobacco use.
"Often when talking to youth, we’ll often say that before the age of 25 your brain is still developing and dependence on nicotine will impact your brain development," Carbonara said. "Usually people hadn't heard that before, and facts like that can make them open to listening and learning more about what they're putting into their bodies."
Most recently, Carbonara's community work was recognized by Tobacco Free Kids, a national nonprofit organization with an aim to reduce tobacco use in young people. As a National Youth and Young Adult Ambassador, she will work directly with the nonprofit to help educate others and advocate for stricter tobacco laws, both in Long Beach and on a national level.
"Being an ambassador now means that I have access to more resources and the opportunity to do more than what I'm doing now," she said. "But currently we're going to work on presentations and meetings through Zoom since what we are able to do outside is limited (because of coronavirus)."
She added that she hopes that the flavored tobacco ban will be more than temporary, and she intends on voicing that opinion in future City Council meetings and other public forums.
"I just want to be a good example of how powerful our generation is and what we have to say that’s important," she said.
The ban on flavored tobacco is set to be lifted on Jan. 3, but it can be extended if approved by City Council.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at email@example.com.