If successful, the newly reintroduced bill would make California the second state after Massachusetts to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco. Massachusetts’ ban was signed into law in November.
SACRAMENTO — Days after concerns over youth vaping led the Trump administration to announce a partial ban on many e-cigarette pods, California lawmakers on Monday introduced a much stronger measure to outlaw store sales of all flavored tobacco products in the state.
The proposal would go far beyond the federal government’s plan, announced Thursday, for a temporary ban on many candy- and fruit-flavored e-cigarette products that could be lifted if companies can convince the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the pods are safe. Senate Bill 793 would prohibit flavored products not covered by the federal ban, including menthol-flavored cartridges and refillable, tank-based vaping systems that can be filled with flavored chemicals. It would also outlaw flavors for traditional combustible cigarettes and cigars, as well as for chewing tobacco and hookah pipes.
The measure does not apply to products available on the Internet, including those sold by out-of-state businesses. It is supported by health and youth advocacy groups.
The legislation was announced by a bipartisan group including Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and 30 lawmakers led by Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who called flavored vaping products “death bait.” Other states are considering additional restrictions on flavored products, but California could become the second state to adopt a full ban should the bill become law. Massachusetts will permanently prohibit flavored tobacco sales starting in June.
“Flavored tobacco products are the gateway to nicotine addiction,” Hill said in a statement. “The tastes and aromas of candy, fruit and other popular flavors insidiously entice children, teens and others into unhealthy and potentially life-threatening habits.”
The lawmakers cited a federal study that found some 5 million middle and high school students in 2019 reported having used e-cigarettes in a recent 30-day period, an increase from 3.6 million the year before. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration found nearly 1 million of the students reported daily use, and estimated that nearly two-thirds of high school students who use electronic cigarettes do so with menthol or mint flavors.
“As a mother of two teenage sons, I’ve watched the explosion of teenage vaping in my own community, as well as across the state,” Kounalakis said. “Too many of our kids are already suffering addiction to tobacco products. This flavor ban will help them break free, as well as prevent more young people from becoming addicted in the first place.”
In light of skyrocketing use, the restrictions announced by the Trump administration last week do not go far enough, said Jim Knox, managing director for the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network in California.
“Anything less than ridding store shelves of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, hookah, cigars, cigarillos and chewing tobacco, diminishes the health and safety of California kids who will find a way to access flavored tobacco anywhere retailers are able to sell these alluring products,” Knox said Monday, accusing the Trump administration of abandoning a previous vow to ban more flavored vaping products.
The Vapor Technology Assn., which represents e-cigarette firms, opposes the new bill. The head of the group said the companies agree the devices should be kept away from minors.
“We know a flavor ban is simply the wrong policy — bans don’t work, they never have,” said Tony Abboud, executive director of the association. “A flavor ban will drive people back to combustible cigarettes, the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., or lead to illegal sales with a new and larger black market.”
Juul Labs Inc., which has a major share of the vaping market, has made a similar argument.
A blanket ban “would impede California’s adult smokers from accessing flavored vapor products that have been shown to help people permanently switch from cigarettes with unparalleled success,” the San Francisco firm said in a letter to lawmakers last year.