Flavor bans have made quite a few headlines in September 2020. In California, Governor Newsom officially signed into law Senate Bill 793, prohibiting the sale of most tobacco products with ‘characterizing flavor’, meaning the presence of a distinguishable taste or aroma other than tobacco. However, the tobacco industry continues to fight against the new legislation. On August 31st, individuals with industry ties submitted a proposal to the California Attorney General to send the law to a voter referendum. If the referendum gets a set number of signatures and qualifies for the ballot, the bill would be suspended until November 2022, when California voters would take to the ballot box to decide the fate of the bill. More information on SB 793 and the referendum can be found here and on the Public Health Law Center’s page, “What the Referendum on California’s Flavored Tobacco Sales Ban Means.”
Pushback from Big Tobacco is unfortunately relatively commonplace, but recent news out of Edina, Minnesota shows that legislative and public health victories can still surmount despite industry challenges. On August 31st, Minnesota federal judge Patrick Schiltz ruled that the city’s ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products was constitutionally legal and not preempted by federal law. As a result of the ruling, Edina’s flavor ban, which was enacted in June of this year, was allowed to go into effect as planned on September 1st. The legislation bans the sale of any flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, within city limits. Also in Minnesota, the Fridley City Council overwhelmingly voted to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products. The bill, which also raises the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products to 21, restricts the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including those of the menthol variety, to adult-only tobacco retailers. These policies add to a growing list of Minnesota jurisdictions with restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products.
In Illinois, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance this month banning the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes in the city. However, as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot states, “This ordinance is an important step, but more must be done to protect our young people’s health from vaping and the tobacco industry’s efforts to have them to develop life-threatening habits.” To this end, the Mayor and City Council also introduced a resolution committing themselves to work towards a comprehensive policy that bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.