On Monday, the Assembly passed a bill 58 to 1 with 20 abstentions that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, flavored e-cigarettes, and flavored vaping products in California.
SB 793 passes Assembly
Senate Bill 793, authored by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), specifically makes any sale punishable by a fine of $250. Amendments have added several exceptions to SB 793, including flavored hookah sales under certain conditions, premium cigars worth $12 or more, and loose-leaf ‘pipe’ tobacco as they were deemed to not target children.
“Senator Jerry Hill’s worthy and hard-fought legislation to ban flavored tobacco products, passed the Assembly Health Committee today with amendments to exempt premium cigars and pipe tobacco, products that do not target children,” said Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) earlier this month. “This legislation will save lives and prevent our young people from taking up the deadly and addictive habit of smoking.”
While the amendment exceptions helped turn some retailers over and solidified Democrat unity in the Assembly on Monday in favor of the bill, they were only the latest hurdles for the sweeping bill.
The long and winding road of SB 793
SB 793 started off as a wide-scoped flavored-tobacco banning bill in January, closely following bans in Massachusetts, Los Angeles County, and San Francisco despite still open questions over vaping and vaping companies such as Juul. After the COVID-19 shutdown, SB 793 stayed alive despite most non-emergency and COVID-19 bills being delayed until next session.
In May, the bill was on the verge of being bogged down in arguments over amendment changes, a fatal mistake that struck down Senator Hill’s predecessor bill, SB 38, the year before when health groups withdrew their support after an amendment was added allowing most flavored products to remain for sale. In June, more questions over dissolvable nicotine lozenges and the hundreds of millions of dollars that California was looking to lose in lost tax revenue arose. Despite lingering questions, SB 793 quickly moved through the Senate and the Assembly.
Accusations of banning all tobacco cessation products did rock Senator Hill in July, when the FDA gave a modified risk designation to a type of snus that the manufacturer, Swedish Match, was trying to get exempted.
In a California Globe interview, Senator Hill clarified the issue, saying “SB 793 would not prohibit the sale of any tobacco cessation products. There is a rightfully rigorous process at the FDA to get a tobacco product authorized as a cessation device. The product Swedish Match is trying to have exempted from the bill is not a cessation device.”
This all culminated on Monday’s vote.
SB 793 heads back to the Senate for a final vote with amendments
Many health organizations and Assembly members stood by by the bill’s main reasoning for the flavored tobacco ban – to protect children and discourage them from using tobacco products.
“It’s the most deadly consumer product ever created,” said Assemblyman Wood on Monday. “In a perfect world, there would be no exemptions to this bill, but we all know we don’t live in a perfect world.”
Medical professionals also praised the bill.
“Flavored tobacco is like the Joe Camel for this generation,” explained pediatrician Dr. Charles Dover to the California Globe. “Independent studies have shown that tobacco use among youths would go down if there were no flavored varieties, so it’s fairly obvious, at least to medical professionals and doctors like myself, that this bill will deliver on it’s promise to reduce youth use.”
However, many who still opposed SB 793 noted that they weren’t going to flavored products of other legal addictive products on the market, namely marijuana.
“Our kids are smoking cannabis, inhaling it, all day long. But because it’s the new cool kid on the block we leave it alone and we go after tobacco,” noted Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Ripon). “If we actually cared about the kids, we would deal with some of the other industries as well.”
SB 793 will now be sent back to the Senate for final approval over recent amendments. If passed, the bill will then be sent to the Governor for his approval or veto.