A bill that would enact a total ban on flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes in California was introduced to the state Senate earlier this week.
Under the scope of Senate Bill 793, authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), every flavored product ranging from menthol cigarettes to flavored vaping juice to flavored e-cigarette cartridges could not be sold in California anymore.
California would be the second state with such a ban, following a ban passed in Massachusetts last year. California’s ban would also be following individual city county bans already in place in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Los Angeles County.
Supporters of SB 793 cite FDA and CDC data showing a large rise of younger people using flavored tobacco and vaping products. The number of middle school and high school students actively using flavored nicotine products doubled in the United States from 2017 to 2018, while seven in ten students have said they have tried flavored nicotine products.
“Flavored tobacco products are the gateway to nicotine addiction,” stated Senator Hill in a press release. “The tastes and aromas of candy, fruit and other popular flavors insidiously entice children, teens and others into unhealthy and potentially life-threatening habits. That’s why SB 793 is aimed at getting this death bait off store shelves: No flavored tobacco products, no exceptions, regardless of the device, the delivery system, or the product.”
Senator Hill has been joined by over 50 state Senators and Assembly members of both parties in support of the bill.
While Youth consumption is the primary reason for the bill, a rise in youth usage of tobacco products in general and a rise in the number of vaping deaths nationwide were also cited by those in favor of the ban.
Those opposing the bill have said that it goes too far. Wayne Calhoun, who has helped run two vaping shops in the Bakersfield area, fears what the ban will ultimately do.
“We’ve been squeezed by the feds and the state so much,” said Calhoun. “Feds cut back on what we can sell for example, right? And we’ve all been struggling.”
“A flavor ban would eat into what we still have remaining of profits. It’s going to be hard to stay open if this passes.”
“And don’t just think about independent shops like us. There’s a lot of chains that sell this as a markup that would see sales sag. And with these astronomical taxes on anything tobacco, the states going to see a huge loss.”
“I know these things aren’t healthy, but vaping helps people ween off of smoking. A lot of my customers steadily use less and less nicotine in what they smoke, and a big part of it is the flavors. The taste is good compared to tobacco, and without it a lot of people would relapse.”
Many vaping and e-cig companies also oppose the bill for similar reasons, with some such as Juul still facing lawsuits in the state over having underage users.
SB 793 will be facing debate in Senate subcommittees in the next few months.