Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis & 30 State Lawmakers Back New Bill to Ban Store Sales of Flavored Tobacco Products

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Health, Youth and Community Advocates Praise Renewed Effort, Saying Fed Rules Don’t Go Far Enough to Protect Kids from Being Lured into Nicotine Addiction

SACRAMENTO – 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 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.

What Lawmakers, Cosponsors and Community Stakeholders are Saying

Joint Author Senator Steve Glazer
: “Flavored e-cigarettes have lured young people into a nicotine addiction that can lead to a lifetime of harmful health effects. We need to put a stop to this before we get another generation hooked on nicotine and tobacco.”

Joint Author Senator Richard Pan, M.D.: “We cannot allow a new generation of our youth to become addicted to nicotine through flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. As a pediatrician, I am proud to join Senator Hill in addressing this growing threat to our children’s health.”

Joint Author Senator Scott Wiener: “Flavored vapes serve one purpose and one purpose only: to get kids hooked and addicted. We spent decades working hard to reduce youth smoking. The last thing we need are corporations undermining this public health success by getting kids addicted. This legislation will protect our kids’ health.”

Principal Coauthor Senator Maria Elena Durazo: “I am proud to be a part of this effort to address the current e-cigarette addiction crisis facing California. Flavored e-cigarettes pose dangerous health risks, particularly to children and young adults. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence harms brain development and predisposes users to future tobacco use. I remain committed to protecting children from this epidemic.”

Principal Coauthor Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez: “Big tobacco should not be able to legally sell products designed to lure children into being lifelong nicotine addicts. The federal government has even started to recognize the dangers of these products. Now, it’s time for California to lead the nation in banning the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes.”

Principal Coauthor Assemblymember Kevin McCarty: “It is no secret that vaping is a youth epidemic, and that flavored tobacco products are routinely used to target our kids. California must put an end to these practices in 2020 by removing these products from the shelves before we allow tobacco companies to create the next generation of nicotine-dependent users.”

Principal Coauthor Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi: “Big Tobacco is targeting our youth with these flavored vaping products. As a parent, I am going to fight Big Tobacco to stop marketing these highly addictive and unhealthy products to our kids.”

Principal Coauthor Assemblymember Robert Rivas: “This bill is about the health of our kids. As a high school student support manager, I witnessed the youth vaping epidemic first hand. And as the parent of a young child I know we can’t afford to wait. The time to act is now.”

Principal Coauthor Assemblymember Jim Wood: “The tobacco industry is always looking for clever ways to get young people hooked. We know that more than 80 percent of kids who have used tobacco started with a flavored product. Specifically luring our younger generation to smoke or vape by flavoring tobacco and e-juices is an intentional marketing ploy and shows that this industry has no conscience. As a practicing dentist for almost 30 years, I’ve seen what tobacco products can do to a person’s health, and as an elected official I have consistently authored or supported legislation that can prevent people from nicotine addiction.”

Coauthor Senator Bob Archuleta: “I would like to thank Senator Hill for his leadership on this very important issue. It is critical that California acts swiftly and completely before a new generation is hooked on nicotine.”

Coauthor Senator Jim Nielsen: “A new generation of young people are becoming addicted to nicotine. Nicotine negatively affects teenagers’ development – emotionally, behaviorally and physically.”

Coauthor Assemblymember Kevin Mullin: “I am pleased to join with Senator Hill as he re-introduces legislation to prohibit the retail sale of flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. These products pose a significant public health risk to all users, but our young people are at an even greater health risk and are clearly being targeted through creative marketing campaigns touting flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum and other popular candies, increasing their appeal to this age group. As a coauthor, I look forward to being an advocate for this important legislation.”

Coauthor Assemblymember Phil Ting: “As a father, I worry about every new effort to get the next generation of kids addicted to tobacco products. I wholeheartedly support additional protections to prevent our youth from the harmful effects of nicotine.”

Coauthor Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks: “Flavored e-cigarettes are a blatant attempt by Big Tobacco to hook another generation of kids on nicotine. This bill creates an opportunity for California to lead the way in fighting this attack on our youth.”

American Heart Association’s California Advocacy Committee Chairman John Maa, M.D.: “Flavored tobacco products are a key part of the tobacco industry’s strategy to bait youth into becoming tomorrow’s addicts. California needs to protect our kids. The removal of all characterizing flavors from all tobacco products is essential for reducing their appeal to youth. The American Heart Association strongly recommends support of this legislation to save a new generation from the dangers of tobacco addiction.”

American Lung Association California Director of Advocacy Erica Costa: “The America Lung Association supports the move to restrict all flavored tobacco products – including mint and menthol, today’s most commonly used tobacco flavorings. Flavored tobacco products target California’s youth and often lead to lifetimes of addiction and negative health effects.”

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids President Matthew L. Myers: “We strongly support legislation to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products – including flavored e-cigarettes, cigars and menthol cigarettes. Passage of such legislation would be a tremendous victory for California’s kids and protect them from nicotine addiction and other health risks associated with e-cigarette use. There is no time to waste as the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gone from bad to worse. And the evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic. Policymakers must act now to stop Juul and other e-cigarette companies from targeting our nation’s kids with flavored, nicotine-loaded products that are addicting a new generation and threaten decades of progress in reducing youth tobacco use.”

Common Sense CEO and Founder James P. Steyer: “E-cigarettes have skirted under the existing federal flavored tobacco ban with candy and dessert flavors fueling a new youth tobacco epidemic. It’s another example of how tech companies are escaping accountability and how their products impact kids. We applaud Sen. Hill in his move to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products in California. Where the Trump Administration refuses to take action, California is once again taking the lead in protecting kids.”

Parents Against Vaping e-Cigarettes Co-Founder Dorian Fuhrman: “Parents Against Vaping e-cigarettes, PAVe, is grateful to State Senator Jerry Hill for working tirelessly to protect kids and families. We hope that California will set an example for the rest of the country by banning all flavored tobacco products that are hooking our kids and thus creating a new generation of a nicotine addicts. As a national, grassroots organization founded in 2018 by three moms after a representative from Juul went into their school and as a response to the youth vaping epidemic, the most serious adolescent public health crisis our country has faced in decades, we know first hand the toll that this youth vaping epidemic is taking on families across the country. We are committed to keeping these predatory companies away from our kids. The latest announcement from the Trump administration, allowing menthol pod based e-cigarettes and other whole categories of flavored e-cigarette products to stay on the market, accessible to kids everywhere, shows that this administration has sided with the industry instead of American families. It has never been more important for states to take action and introduce comprehensive legislation to ban all flavored tobacco products.”