A flavored tobacco ban currently making it’s way through Senate committees is looking at possible amendment alterations in the coming weeks.
SB 793 and the flavored tobacco ban
Senate Bill 793, written by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), would make it illegal for any store that sells tobacco to sell flavored tobacco or tobacco flavor enhancer products. This would include more traditional tobacco products such cigars, cigarillos, and chewing tobacco, as well as newer products such as e-cigarettes, vape juice, and vaping systems. Products must show that a flavor has indeed been added and is different than simply tasting like tobacco.
Those who sell against the law will be fined $250 for each time they sold a flavored tobacco product and local government could potentially make the fines even higher.
SB 793 passed the first major hurdle last Wednesday when it was passed 8 to 1 in the Senate Health Committee.
Senator Hill introduced the bill earlier this year in response to the rising levels of flavored tobacco use, primarily among younger people. The Senator has said that the growing popularity among younger people must be stopped now before another generation has higher levels of tobacco-related illnesses and fatalities.
“We also need to be cognizant of the long-term consequences of a new generation hooked on nicotine,” explained Senator Hill last week. “Thirteen-hundred people die every day due to tobacco-related illnesses; there is no reason the most deadly product on earth needs to have a candy flavor.”
Senator Hill’s second try at a flavored tobacco ban
However, despite early indications that it would be passed in at least the Senate, new amendments loom over SB 793, much like what happened to the almost identical Senate Bill 38 last year.
SB 38, also written by Hill, initially flew through committees much like SB 793 before being bogged down by amendments. Exceptions for hookah and tobacco products patented before 2000 were added, which would have resulted in most flavored tobacco products not being affected.
Powerful organizations who had given their backing of the bill such as the American Lung Association in California and the American Heart Association subsequently withdrew their support and outright opposed SB 38. Despite on track to being passed with amendments, Senator Hill withdrew the bill in May of 2019 because of the changes.
“I introduced Senate Bill 38 to protect young people from the dangerous health risks of tobacco products in any form and to prevent another generation from becoming addicted to nicotine,” said Senator Hill in a statement last year. ‘The aim was to prohibit tobacco products with fruit, candy and other flavors that entice young people from being sold in stores. The amendments imposed on the bill erode those protections by creating unnecessary, harmful exemptions.”
Possible déjà vu of SB 38’s amendments
Today, SB 793 is heading to those same committees that largely changed SB 38 last year. And it may doom the bill yet again.
“There’s Senators out there who want to protect smaller smoke shops, tobacco stores, and even gas station convenience stores because of how much they get through sales,” noted former product consultant Isaac Levy. “In the 90’s we had similar arguments for sales and exceptions over Joe Camel and other mascots, and the similar bills trying to ban him in the 90’s kept getting amendments attached too until the FTC ruling and other lawsuits made it unprofitable.”
“Flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes was the 2010’s way of getting into a younger market, and it’s happening again. You can pretend that there is no tobacco lobby anymore, but there certainly is, and more amendments are going to creep up over this in all likelihood. This is a huge chunk of their business in North America, and they know that whatever California does other states will follow. They’re more worried about the ban that was passed in the House in Washington earlier this year, and they also fought hard against the LA ban last year. But it’s all front, and lawmakers are going to add amendments once again in the interest of cultural reasons, such as hookah, or to protect sellers from losing such a large part of their business, such as the 2000 patent line in the sand.”
SB 793 is currently waiting to be heard before the Senate Appropriations Committee. The hearing is set to take place within the next month. It is currently unknown how many amendments, if any, will be added.