Supporters stage massive campaign in support of California’s ban on flavored tobacco products

The law banning the sale of flavored tobacco is suspended subject to a referendum

It’s been about 18 months since California lawmakers passed a law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom banning the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state.

An ongoing referendum on a ballot measure ahead of the November election has suspended that law.

Now the law’s supporters, led by the American Lung Association, and opponents, including the powerful tobacco industry, are gearing up for a campaign and popular vote to decide whether California’s ban remains within the books or is abandoned.

Stopping the sale of these tobacco products in California is high on the policy agenda of the American Lung Association, which is particularly concerned about the use of the products by adolescents and the potential long-term harm to their health.

Four in five young people start using tobacco with a flavored product, mostly e-cigarettes containing “predatory flavors that the tobacco industry uses to attract children”, said Erica Costa, advocacy director of the association based in Sacramento.

“It’s shocking,” she said. “They get addicted very young, they could potentially become lifelong users.”

In its 20th annual “State of Tobacco Control”, the nonprofit – founded in 1904 to fight tuberculosis – urged voters to back a measure in the November ballot that, if passed, would retain California’s 2020 law prohibiting the sale of all flavored products. tobacco products.

“If we can get this adopted in California, it will set the tone for the nation,” Costa said.

Other supporters include the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, California NAACP, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The California Coalition for Fairness, which supports a “no” vote on the ballot measure – which would repeal the law – reported $21 million in contributions, mostly from tobacco companies Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds.

“We agree that young people should never have access to tobacco products, but this can be achieved without imposing a total ban on the products that millions of adults choose to use,” the coalition said in a quoted statement. on Ballotpedia.

“Furthermore, a ban will hurt small businesses and jobs as products are pushed from licensed, conscientious retailers into an underground market, leading to increased youth access, crime and other social or criminal justice issues. for many California residents,” he said.

The coalition is a San Rafael-based nonprofit formed in 2020 that has identified itself as “maker-sponsored.”

Senate Bill 793 was approved by state lawmakers in August 2020 on a combined vote of 92 to 1, with the only no from former Assemblyman Bill Bough, a County Republican. ‘Orange.

The law prohibits the sale of all flavored tobacco productsvaping products from cotton candy to banana cigarillos and menthol cigarettes.

“By using candy, fruit and other alluring flavors, the tobacco industry has used its tactics to entice a new generation into nicotine addiction while keeping longtime users hooked,” the statement said. former state senator Jerry Hill of San Mateo, sponsor of SB 793, CSP Daily News. , a trade publication, reported.

More than two million middle and high school students reported currently using e-cigarettes in 2021, with more than eight in 10 using flavored devices, according to a Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released. in September.

Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a press release that it was disturbing to find “the quarter of high school students who use e-cigarettes and say they vape every day.”

“It is essential that these products get out of the market and are no longer in the hands of the youth of our country,” he said.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices that have cartridges filled with a liquid that typically contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. Users inhale the vapor rather than the smoke from combustible tobacco products,

The Food and Drug Administration’s “The Real Cost” campaign began prioritizing email in 2017 due to high usage rates among young people.

Citing a report that found about 80% of young people see no great risk of harm from regular e-cigarette use, the FDA said in a press release that “the low-risk mentality may have devastating consequences”.

“Adolescent brains are still developing, making them particularly vulnerable to nicotine addiction,” the FDA said.

With California’s ban pending November vote, Massachusetts is the only state with a strict policy restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products.

In the State of Tobacco Control Report, the American Lung Association for the first time listed flavored tobacco products among the graduated standards.

Massachusetts received the only A, there were no Bs or Cs, three Ds, and 46 Fs, with the lowest rating indicating no policy or one that does not meet the criteria to receive a point.

Only California received an I for incomplete, citing delayed implementation of the ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products.

The ballot measure is titled California Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products Referendum.

In Sonoma County, three cities — Petaluma, Sebastopol and Windsor — had the top four scores for strict policies restricting flavored tobacco products.

Five cities — Cloverdale, Cotati, Healdsburg, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa — and unincorporated areas had zeros for lack of policy, and the city of Sonoma had one for weakest policy.

During this time, the association intends to lobby local governments to take action that will normalize the restriction of flavored tobacco products and generate support for the state ban.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors banned the sale of these products in 2017, prompting RJ Reynolds to launch a repeal campaign and spend $12.9 million to support it.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit back with $2.3 million, bolstering the campaign to enforce the ban by nearly $1 million.

Voters preserved the San Francisco ban by a 68.4% majority.

You can contact editor Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or [email protected] On Twitter @guykovner.

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