October 2020 Flavor Ban Action in California

Cigarettes, E-Cigarettes, Flavors (including Menthol), Pharmacies, Product Availability

Local jurisdictions in California continue to push for bans on the sale of flavored tobacco products, amidst an uncertain timeline and outcome of the statewide ban.

  • Mill Valley approved an ordinance prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, but exempting hookah tobacco sold at 21+ locations. The bill also bans the sale of all tobacco products at pharmacies within city limits. The ordinance does not penalize youth for possession or use, and rather calls for suspension or revocation of retailer licenses if the ordinance is violated. The ban is set to go into effect May of 2021 to allow time for retailers to sell off existing inventory.
  • San Mateo City Council approved the first reading of a similar ordinance, which would include a ban on sales of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes and would prohibit the sale of any tobacco products in pharmacies. Additionally, the ordinance details penalties and fines for retailer violations. While the bill must still undergo one more reading this month, the unanimous approval of the first reading signifies hope of passage. If passed, the ordinance is planned to go into effect January 1, 2021.
  • As well, Santa Clarita City Council unanimously approved a bill extending a citywide moratorium on new tobacco retailers selling flavored tobacco products. While roughly 20 businesses are still allowed to sell flavored tobacco products, this moratorium prevents new retailers from selling these products. According to the city agenda report, the moratorium is to be extended “by an additional 12 months, or until (CA Senate Bill) 793 goes into effect, whichever is sooner.”
  • CA Senate Bill 793, which was signed by Senator Newsom in August 2020, prohibits the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Despite the bill officially passing, individuals with industry ties submitted a proposal to the California Attorney General to send the law to a voter referendum. The proposed referendum requires over 600,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, but if the referendum qualifies, the bill would be suspended until the election in November 2022. Recently, the Tobacco Free Kids Action Fund filed a complaint with the state Attorney General asking for an investigation into “numerous instances of illegal signature-gathering tactics” for the referendum; the American Heart Association has also signed onto this complaint. More information on SB 793 can be found here. Public Health Law Center also has an article and webinar recording on the bill and referendum.
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