California Governor Gavin Newsom has officially banned flavored tobacco products via Senate Bill 793. The ban extends to candy-flavored vapes and e-cigarettes. The law will go into effect on January 1.
For some smaller smoke shops, those flavored products made up a large chunk of sales — in some cases up to 40% or more — and replacing that revenue will be tough. The new law means that sales of e-cigarette cartridges and flavored cigarettes will be subject to fines. The law would also ban menthol cigarettes.
Some areas of California best the national average in terms of smoking. For example, while the state average is approximately 11%, the California Department of Public Health estimates that the percentage of the population that smokes in Humboldt County is around 17% of adults.
This new law was announced almost exactly one year after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. In the United States, those under the age of 25 comprise over 60% of e-cigarette users.
‘F’ for flavor
Flavors that will go bye-bye at the start of 2021 include alcoholic beverages, candy, chocolate, cocoa, dessert, herb, honey, menthol, mint, spice and wintergreen. You can thank the bill’s author — San Mateo democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill — for that. The bill had the support of the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association. Additionally, Gov. Newsom has been vocal about condemning candy-flavored smoking products or any method attracting business from the youth demographic.
While the law is intended to protect minors’ health and safety, it does pose an interesting thought. A recent study from Yale showed that those in states where marijuana wasn’t legal, the rates of e-cig or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) were most prevalent. The study implied that consumers were seeking out and using unregulated products. Whether or not the same situation will happen with the implementation of SB 793 remains to be seen.
Reduce the use
California’s health professionals hope that the flavor ban will make it more difficult for kids to get their dirty paws on flavored vape products, including vape cartridges. Turns out, kids are one of the biggest markets of flavored tobacco products. Can you say, “Gross?” Not only do these flavored cartridges taste delicious, but they also pack up to 20 times more nicotine when compared to traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Interestingly enough, online sales won’t be affected by the bill, even if products are shipped to California.
E-cigarettes and vaping devices were touted as safe alternatives to smoking conventional tobacco products, but then reality hit. While the use of these products continued to rise, so did concerns with links to health problems. Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) have been linked to over 2,800 cases of EVALI and 68 deaths across the country. While the new law prohibits retailers from selling flavored tobacco products of any kind, it doesn’t restrict the sale of flavored premium cigars and hookah tobacco.
Regardless, all the policy and legalese talk doesn’t mean much to local business owners who are struggling to keep the doors open and lights on during recent COVID-pandemic struggles. On the flip side, a counter referendum is currently in process. If it gets more than 600,000 signatures from registered voters in California, the law won’t take effect unless it passes a statewide vote in 2022.