AP

Voters to decide on California ban on flavored tobacco

Oct 14, 2022, 8:00 PM | Updated: Oct 15, 2022, 8:05 am

FILE - Menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products are displayed at a store in San Francisco on M...

FILE - Menthol cigarettes and other tobacco products are displayed at a store in San Francisco on May 17, 2018. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA are underwriting an effort to repeal the state's ban on flavored tobacco sales. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Two years ago, California banned flavored tobacco products such as menthol cigarettes and cotton candy vaping juice, arguing that they mostly attracted kids and were especially dangerous amid the coronavirus pandemic when youth deaths spiked from respiratory complications.

But the law never took effect. Tobacco giants, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Philip Morris USA, spent $20 million on a campaign that gathered enough signatures to put the issue to the voters.

Californians now will decide on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot whether to toss out the law or keep it.

The issue has set off a fierce fight. The tobacco companies are pushing hard to keep from being shut out of a large portion of California’s vast market. Meanwhile, supporters of the ban, who include doctors, child welfare advocates and the state’s dominant Democratic Party, say the law is necessary to put a stop to the staggering rise in teen smoking.

However, the California Republican Party wants to repeal the law, saying it would cause a giant loss in tax revenue. The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates it could cost the state tens of millions of dollars to around $100 million annually.

If voters approve, California would become the second state in the nation to enact such a ban after Massachusetts. A number of cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, have already enacted their own bans.

It’s already illegal for retailers to sell tobacco to anyone under 21. But advocates of the ban say flavored cigarettes and vaping cartridges are still too easy for teens to obtain. The ban wouldn’t make it a crime to possess such products, but retailers who sold them to kids could be fined up to $250.

The ban, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, would also prohibit the sale of pods for vape pens, tank-based systems and chewing tobacco, with exceptions made for hookahs, some cigars and loose-leaf tobacco.

The tobacco industry’s campaign has painted the ban as being especially bad for Black and Latino people, who use menthol at higher rates than others.

“It’s unfair for communities of color. Bad law. Bad consequences,” said one online banner ad paid for by RAI Services, a subsidiary of Reynolds American, which is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

But the ads drew a backlash from some Black leaders who call the campaign offensive.

“I am insulted that the tobacco industry would make an effort to make us believe that mentholated cigarettes are part of African American culture, and that this is a discriminatory piece of legislation against Black people,” then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said before the Legislature voted on the ban. Weber, a San Diego Democrat who chaired the California Legislative Black Caucus, is now California’s secretary of state.

So far the campaign to allow the law to take effect has raised more than $6 million, nearly four times more than the effort to stop it, according to state campaign finance records.

Some small neighborhood market owners favor repealing the law, calling it another blow to their businesses as they struggle to recover from a drop in sales during the pandemic.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is sworn-in before the House Committee on Hom...

the MyNorthwest Staff with wire reports

Senate dismisses two articles of impeachment against Homeland Security secretary, ends trial

The Senate dismissed impeachment charges against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as Republicans pushed to remove him.

20 hours ago

idaho gender-affirming care...

Associated Press

Supreme Court allows Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

The Supreme Court is allowing Idaho to enforce its ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth while lawsuits over the law proceed.

2 days ago

Image: Former President Donald Trump speaks to the press in Manhattan state court in New York City ...

Associated Press

Trump’s hush money trial gets underway; 1st day ends without any jurors selected

The historic hush money trial of Donald Trump got underway Monday with the arduous process of selecting a jury to hear the case.

3 days ago

Photo: Israeli Iron Dome air defense system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran, in cent...

Tia Goldenberg and Josef Federman, The Associated Press

Israel is quiet on next steps against Iran — and on which partners helped shoot down missiles

On Sunday, Israel's leaders credited an international military coalition with helping thwart a direct attack from Iran.

4 days ago

Early phases of Iran's drone attack against Israel. (Photo: Getty Images)...

Associated Press

The Latest | Iran launches its first direct military attack against Israel

Iran launched its first full-scale military attack against Israel on Saturday, sending drones toward Israel.

5 days ago

Early phases of Iran's drone attack against Israel. (Photo: Getty Images)...

Associated Press

BREAKING: White House confirms Iran drone attacks towards Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) — The White House says it will provide unspecified support for Israel’s defense against an ongoing airborne attack from Iran. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a Saturday statement that “Iran has begun an airborne attack against Israel.” She added: “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and […]

5 days ago

Voters to decide on California ban on flavored tobacco