Last month, California passed a ban on flavored tobacco that will prohibit the sale of most flavored tobacco products in the state. As is this case with many new laws in California, the citizens might have a chance at undoing it.
An effort is underway to collect signatures to get the flavored tobacco ban put on the 2022 general election ballot, which would also mean a delayed implementation of the flavored tobacco ban.
According to the Cigar Association of America, the following timeline exists for the ballot referendum:
- Aug. 31, 2020 – Proposed referendum filed with Secretary of State.
- Sept. 10, 2020 – Deadline for Attorney General to prepare ballot title and summary. As soon as title and summary is completed, proponents may begin collecting signatures.
- Nov. 26, 2020 – Deadline to submit signatures to county elections offices.
- Dec. 8, 2020 (tentative) – After signatures are submitted, county elections offices have 8 working days to determine if the raw count of signatures meets the required threshold.
- Dec. 31, 2020 (tentative) – After signatures are submitted, county elections offices have 30 working days to verify the signatures if the raw count threshold was met.
- Jan. 1, 2021 – SB 793 takes effect on this date if the referendum does not qualify for the ballot.
- Nov. 8, 2022 – If the SB 793 referendum qualifies, it will be placed on the ballot at the November 2022 General Statewide Election.
- Dec. 8, 2022 – The General Election vote is certified. If the referendum succeeds, SB 793 will be repealed on this date. If the referendum fails, SB 793 will take effect on this date.
In order to qualify for the ballot, the referendum will need to get 5 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, which equates to needing 623,212 signatures to qualify.
If it qualifies for the ballot, the law would be suspended until Nov. 8, 2022 and the matter would be left up to the voters.
California’s flavored tobacco ban has a couple of exemptions.
First, “premium cigars” that are flavored would be exempt from the ban. However, the law defines “premium cigars” as costing at least $12 wholesale. That is far more expensive than almost every flavored or infused cigar sold on the market today, effectively exempting no cigars unless manufacturers choose to increase prices solely to comply with California’s law.
For context, it would only exempt cigars with an MSRP of at least $24. In California, those cigars would likely cost $36.66 before sales tax.
In addition, flavored shisha tobacco can continue to be sold out hookah lounges so long as some basic conditions are met.