California voters allowed a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products to go into effect during the nov. 8, 2022, election. Mario Tama via Getty Images

Dive Brief:

  • California voters approved Proposition 31 on Nov. 8, which allowed a law banning flavored tobacco products to proceed, with about 61% of voters supporting the law as of Friday morning’s count.
  • The ban was initially signed into law in August of 2020, but opponents of the bill got it on the ballot for a veto referendum, putting it on hold until after Election Day. It will go into effect no later than Dec. 21, according to the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
  • Similar laws are in place in Massachusetts and being considered in New Jersey. Further, the U.S. Food and Drug administration is considering a nationwide menthol flavoring ban for tobacco products.

Dive Insight:

Once it goes into effect, California’s Senate Bill 793 will prohibit the sale of any “flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, with exceptions for hookah tobacco, loose leaf tobacco, and premium cigars.”

At the heart of the movement against menthol-flavored tobacco products is concern that the flavoring attracts youths to vaping and smoking. Data from the FDA’s 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed about 1 in 10 students who answered the online survey reported using an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days. Many of those respondents said they used e-cigarettes daily, and roughly 85% of respondents who vaped used flavored liquid.

However, in the ballot information on the proposition, opponents pointed out that selling any tobacco products to those under the age of 21 is already illegal, and argued that outlawing it for adults will only cause people to seek these products out elsewhere, whether through legal or black-market means. 

Menthol products are popular among smokers — they make up about 34% of cigarette sales, according to NACS. Flavored tobacco products of various kinds have already been outlawed in a host of localities across America. More than 100 California municipalities are on that list, including four of its five largest cities.   

RJ Reynolds and a group of other tobacco companies and retail groups filed suit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday in the Southern District of California, asking for the court to declare the law unenforceable.

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