California voters will decide in November whether to uphold or block a law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020 that banned the sale of certain flavored tobacco products, an effort by tobacco advocates to stop a youth vaping crisis and weaken the influence of industry in the state.
Senate Bill 793 would have banned California retailers from selling flavored tobacco products, popular among teens, except for hookah, certain cigars and loose-leaf tobacco. The bill passed the Legislative Assembly with bipartisan support, despite intense lobbying by the tobacco industry and other interest groups.
After it was signed, opponents collected enough signatures from Californians to put the issue on the statewide ballot, delaying the law’s implementation until voters could weigh in on it. the new policy. It will appear on the November 8 ballot as Proposition 31.
A ‘yes’ vote means the law will go into effect, while a ‘no’ vote means it will not.
Proponents of the ballot measure said the new rules would help prevent tobacco use among young people, who often gravitate toward e-cigarettes that contain what the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call flavors ” child friendly” such as cotton candy, berries and cherries.
The opposition said the ban would encourage a black market and remove products that smokers use to quit standard cigarettes.
Lindsey Freitas, advocacy director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said passing Proposition 31 is key to stopping the sale of products she describes as the industry’s way “to snag a new generation”.
“These young people are drawn to flavors but hooked on nicotine,” Freitas said.
A CDC survey of young people in 2020 found that 20% of high school students and 10% of college students said they currently use e-cigarettes.
“This policy is really about protecting our children from an industry that sees them as dollar signs and nothing more. If we don’t step in and stand in the way, they will spend millions and millions of dollars prosecuting them,” Freitas said.
The “Yes on 31” campaign is supported by Newsom, the California Democratic Party, the California Teachers Assn. and a large number of organizations representing doctors, dentists, nurses and public health professionals. The campaign to pass Proposition 31 raised more than $6.1 million, according to state campaign finance records.
RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA support the campaign against Proposition 31, and the California Republican Party endorsed a “no” vote against the initiative. The opposition raised over $1.7 million.
These groups argue that banning flavored tobacco is akin to “banning” and would disproportionately affect those who prefer menthol-flavored products, especially people of color.
They also pointed to Proposition 31’s likely reduction in state tobacco tax revenue. The Independent Office of the Legislative Analyst estimates that the loss could range from “tens of millions of dollars to around $100 million a year”, depending on whether smokers quit altogether or simply switch to unflavored products.
Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the “no” campaign, called Proposition 31 a “total ban” on already heavily regulated products.
Federal law prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. The US Food and Drug Administration has clamped down on flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products in recent years and in April announced a plan to ban the sale of menthol cigarettes. Dozens of California cities have already enacted some level of restrictions against the sale of flavored tobacco products.
“What Proposition 31 would do is take away that adult choice of what adults want to choose,” Miller said. “We think prohibition doesn’t work.”
Miller said the ‘no’ campaign agrees kids shouldn’t have access to these products, but Proposition 31 would make it harder to enforce ‘because there’s no one selling cigarettes. illegal immigrants who will stop and ask the children for ID”.
The “yes” side countered these claims by saying that certain products will still be available in the California market.
“It’s not something that will prohibit [all] tobacco products,” said Dr. Michael Ong, chair of the California Tobacco Education and Research Oversight Committee and professor-in-residence of medicine and health policy and management at UCLA.
“But it’s going to ban specific flavors that unfortunately are addictive in children, and unfortunately sustain unfair addiction among particular populations, because they’ve been targeted by the tobacco industry.”
Los Angeles Times