SACRAMENTO, CA – Amid mounting concerns for the health and safety of young people, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, 30 state lawmakers, and a strong coalition of health, youth and community advocates are backing a tough new bill [to be] introduced today to ban sales of any flavored tobacco product in California stores.
“As a mother of two teenage sons, I’ve watched the explosion of teenage vaping in my own community, as well as across the state,” Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis said. “Too many of our kids are already suffering addiction to tobacco products. This flavor ban will help them break free, as well as prevent more young people from becoming addicted in the first place.”
The bill, SB 793, renews the work Senator Jerry Hill began with colleagues and advocates last year to prohibit store sales of all flavored tobacco products with no exceptions. The group returns in greater numbers this year with their legislative push aimed at halting the alarming resurgence of nicotine consumption among youth.
Epidemic Youth Use of Tobacco Products
Federal researchers examining year-over-year growth in youth use of e-cigarettes and their overall use of tobacco products first charted the spike in 2018. Researchers found 4.9 million middle and high school students used a tobacco product of some sort in the past 30 days, with 3.6 million of them using e-cigarettes – more than twice the amount of youth e-cigarette use reported in 2017. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that from 2017 to 2018 youth use of any tobacco product shot up 38.3 percent among high school students alone. Researchers said the dramatic increases they found wiped out what had been a downward trend in overall youth tobacco product use.
In 2019, use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students continued to soar, exceeding 5 million, the FDA recently reported and cited a 2016 CDC study detailing the appeal that the mint, candy and fruit flavored products have for students. Overall use of tobacco products by middle and high school students climbed to 6.2 million in 2019, with more than 4.3 million students –nearly 7 out of every 10 – saying they used a flavored product, the CDC reported in December.
The CDC also noted the misperceptions students have about the tobacco products they use. Slightly more than 28 percent “perceived no harm or little harm from intermittent use” of e-cigarettes, 16.4 percent said the same about hookahs, 11.5 percent felt that way about smokeless tobacco products and 9.5 percent said the same about cigarettes, the CDC said.
Efforts to Reverse the Downward Spiral
Fifty-five California cities and counties have set restrictions on sales of flavored tobacco products. Massachusetts will ban flavored tobacco products effective June 1, 2020. However, there is no statewide policy in California banning their sales. Legislative efforts to set a statewide standard were stymied last year. And, while the FDA promised to take strong steps on the issue more than a year ago, the federal restrictions announced last week fell short of expectations.
“California needs to step up to protect our youth from tobacco addiction, especially since the Trump Administration has abandoned its announced plan to clear the marketplace of all flavored e-cigarettes,” said Jim Knox, managing director for the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network in California. “Anything less than ridding store shelves of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol, hookah, cigars, cigarillos and chewing tobacco, diminishes the health and safety of California kids who will find a way to access flavored tobacco anywhere retailers are able to sell these alluring products.”
Carol McGruder, founding member and co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, said, “It is 2020 and time to get it done. We hope California will follow Massachusetts and do what the FDA has been unable to do, prohibit the sale of menthol and all flavored tobacco products…period. The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council is again heartened at the progressive leadership shown by Senator Jerry Hill and the other lawmakers coauthoring this legislation. The proposed bill to prohibit the sales of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, will ensure all of California’s children including Black children are protected from a lifetime addiction to these deadly products.”
“Flavored tobacco products are the gateway to nicotine addiction,” said Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties, who authored SB 793 with 29 senators and assemblymembers. “The tastes and aromas of candy, fruit and other popular flavors insidiously entice children, teens and others into unhealthy and potentially life-threatening habits. That’s why SB 793 is aimed at getting this death bait off store shelves: No flavored tobacco products, no exceptions, regardless of the device, the delivery system, or the product.
“I am deeply grateful for the strong support of Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis, my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly, and the many advocates for health, youth and our community for SB 793. We stand together to prevent Big Tobacco from depriving our youth of a healthy future.”
The 2020 Vanguard
Senators Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, Mike McGuire, D-North Coast/North Bay, Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, are joint authors of the bill introduced today. Senator Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa are principal coauthors. The coauthors in upper house are Senators Bob Archuleta, D-Pico Rivera, Jim Beall, D- San Jose, Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, Connie M. Leyva, D-Chino, and Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama. Assemblymembers Tasha Boerner Horvath, D-Encinitas, Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, David Chiu, D-San Francisco, Marc Levine, D-Marin County, Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, Luz Rivas, D-Arleta, Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay, Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, are also coauthors.
In addition to Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis, the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network California; American Heart Association; the American Lung Association; the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Common Sense are bill cosponsors.