SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — There's a renewed effort to protect San Diego's youth from flavored tobacco products.
Friday, activists a part of the San Diego Smoke-Free Project held a press conference at Officer Jeremy Henwood Memorial Park in the heart of City Heights. The group calls the area a tobacco swamp with thirty-three tobacco retailers within a half-mile radius.
"We don't think it's okay that we have hookah shops and hookah lounges next to libraries where kids are at, hookah shops next to schools where kids are at," Reginald Washington said.
Washington is the CEO of Project A.W.A.R.E — an organization for at-risk youth.
He said tobacco companies use flavored products as a gateway to nicotine addiction and exploit the growing popularity of hookah, in particular, to young people in communities of color.
"The results might not come today, but you're going to see the results through cancer, the results through addiction, the results through illness later on down the line," Washington said.
Janan Moein said he was 19-years-old when he started vaping heavily in 2019.
"The shop didn't even I.D. me, I just walked in. I looked a little bit older than the people my age. I just walked in and they sold me a Juul," Moein said.
Five to six months in, Moein said he got sick and nearly lost both of his lungs due to vaping.
"I spent 14 days in ICU," he said. "I lost a quarter of my body weight in two weeks, and I really was knocking on death's door."
Today, Moein is a tobacco reform and youth community advocate, using his experience to raise awareness about the dangers of tobacco.
Moein, Washington, and others spoke during the event demanding San Diego City Council create an ordinance ending the sale of flavored tobacco, including flavored hookah.
They said more than 100 municipalities across California – including San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and Long Beach – have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products.
"We're asking city council members to be champions of this movement that we're beginning," Washington said.