The bill does not ban all flavored tobacco products
California is on track to ban the sale of most flavored tobacco products, joining states like New York and Massachusetts in an effort to slow the spread of the harmful habit among children.
The state Assembly passed the ban on Monday, two months after the state Senate passed a similar proposal. The ban faces one more vote in the Senate before heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.
The bill does not make it a crime for people to possess flavored tobacco products, but it bans retailers from selling them. Violators would face a $250 fine.
Tobacco companies have staked their future on electronic cigarettes in recent years, with Altria — one of the world’s largest tobacco producers — purchasing a 35% stake in San Francisco-based e-cigarette maker Juul in 2018.
Vaping products drew scrutiny from federal regulators concerned about their attractiveness to children. In response, tobacco companies pushed for states to raise the smoking age to 21 — something Congress did last year.
But advocates say the products are still too easy for teens to get, especially with enticing flavors such as “mango” and “tropical fusion.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says if smoking continues among children at the current rate, it projects 5.6 million people younger than 18 will die from a smoking-related illness.
“Big tobacco has found an even more insidious way to hook our kids,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said.
The bill, authored by Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill, does not ban all flavored tobacco products, with exemptions for loose leaf tobacco and “premium cigars,” defined as any cigar that is not mass produced by a machine, has a wrapper made entirely from whole tobacco leaf and cost at least $12. It also exempts shisha tobacco products, which are smoked in a hookah, a type of water pipe.
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