California Legislators Announce Bill to Ban Flavored Tobacco, Restrict Online Tobacco Sales

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Six California state legislators have announced plans to introduce a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and place stricter rules for online sales of tobacco products in response to what they describe as an upswing in nicotine consumption by youths.

The bill, which is sponsored by Senators Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), Anthony J. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), Connie M. Leyva D-Chino and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), along with Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), will prohibit the sales of flavored tobacco products and flavored e-cigarettes in retail stores and vending machines. It will also impose age verification requirements for online sales of tobacco products.

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“We must stop the appalling epidemic of e-cigarette use by youths,” said Hill via a press release. “Enticed by fruit, candy and other appealing flavors, high school and middle school students throughout the U.S. are vaping in record numbers. The surge has reversed the decline in underage use of all tobacco products.”

While the formal text of the bill will be introduced next week once the legislature convenes its 2018-19 session, several key details have already been disclosed. The bill seeks to place a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products in retail stores and vending machines, including e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, e-pipes and other vaping devices as well as flavored smokable and nonsmokable products, such as cigars, cigarillos, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, snuff, dissolvable tobacco and tobacco edibles. Violators would face civil penalties ranging from $400 to $600 for the first incident to $5,000 to $6,000 for a fifth violation in a five-year period.

Additionally, sellers and distributors of tobacco products online or by mail, phone or fax would be required to verify that California-based buyers are 21 or older before the sale is complete. Shipments of such products to California would be required to be conspicuously labeled: “CONTAINS TOBACCO PRODUCTS: SIGNATURE OF PERSON 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER REQUIRED FOR DELIVERY.” The signature is to be obtained before the delivery is complete. Violations of the requirements by sellers or distributors would result in civil penalties, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 for the first incident to $10,000 for a fifth violation within a five-year period.

“By banning retail sales of flavored tobacco products and setting stringent age verification requirements for online sales of tobacco products, we can prevent a new generation from becoming addicted to nicotine,” Hill said.

The lawmakers’ bill creates a threshold for restrictions and prohibitions regarding tobacco product sales. The bill would not prevent local jurisdictions from taking further steps. Currently, more than two dozen municipalities within the state have imposed some form of ban on flavored tobacco, including San Francisco and Oakland, as well as Marin, San Mateo, Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties, according to a report by Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing of the American Lung Association in California.

Featured image by Henri Sivonen from Helsinki, Finland [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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