By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – California voters will soon determine the fate of the state’s flavored tobacco ban.
Among the seven initiatives appearing on the November ballot is Proposition 31. The initiative asks voters whether to uphold or repeal Senate Bill 793, a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020 that bans retailers from selling flavored tobacco products – including menthol cigarettes.
Gov. Newsom himself has come out in support of the “Yes on 31” campaign saying, “it’s time to stand up and protect our kids and to push back against Big Tobacco,” in a video released over the summer. The governor and other proponents of the ban argue it is necessary to protect kids and young adults from disease and death caused by tobacco products.
“Big Tobacco uses candy-flavored products to target kids – including cotton candy, chocolate, strawberry, and minty-menthol – and lure them into a lifelong addiction to nicotine,” Lindsey Freitas, advocacy director with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement to The Center Square. “In fact, 4 out of 5 kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product.”
“Voting yes on Prop 31 will save countless lives,” she added. “Tobacco is the #1 preventable cause of death in California, where tobacco-related diseases kill 40,000 people each year.”
Backers of the “No on 31” campaign who want to see the law repealed say that the ban would likely have a greater impact on adults than on children. As previously reported by The Center Square, individuals have noted that it is already illegal for anyone under 21 to buy tobacco in California, arguing that it will result in the ban of flavored products for adult consumers.
“Although the law bans the sale of flavored tobacco products to all customers regardless of age, lawmakers named it the ‘Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act.’ They claimed it was needed to stop underage tobacco use — because only kids, apparently, like flavor,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, wrote in an opinion column published in the Orange County Register.
“To be sure, no one wants children smoking or vaping, but it’s already illegal in California to sell or give tobacco and vapor products to anyone under the age of 21. If prohibition worked, then we wouldn’t have a problem.”
Tobacco companies have sunk more than $22 million into the “No on Prop 31” campaign aiming to repeal California’s law, according to Ballotpedia. California voters, however, appear poised to uphold the ban.
Polling released earlier this month from the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies shows 57% of likely California voters would vote “yes” on Proposition 31 in favor of upholding the ban. Comparatively, 31% of likely voters said they would vote “no.”
California voters have until Nov. 8 to submit their ballots.