A bill seeking to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in California took its first significant step forward in its legislative journey, passing the California Senate Health Committee by an 8-1 vote on Wednesday.
The bill, SB 793, would make it illegal for a tobacco retailer, or any of the tobacco retailer’s agents or employees, to sell, offer for sale, or possess with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer. That would apply to traditional smokable tobacco products such as cigars, cigarillos and pipe tobacco, to non-combustible products such as chewing tobacco, snuff, and tobacco edibles, as well as electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, e-pips and other vaping products. It would cover a wide range of flavors, from mint and menthol to candy and fruit flavorings, effectively any product with a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, other than that of tobacco, imparted by a tobacco product or any byproduct produced by the tobacco product.
Specifically, the ordinance makes the distinction about whether a manufacturer has made a statement or claim directed to consumers or to the public that the tobacco product has or produces a characterizing flavor, including, but not limited to, text, color, images, or all, on the product’s labeling or packaging that are used to explicitly or implicitly communicate that the tobacco product has a characterizing flavor.
If passed, violators would be subject to a fine of $250 for each occurrence, and it would allow cities and counties to impose stricter penalties than those provided by the state law.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-13, and has garnered co-authorship from nearly 40 state lawmakers, as well as California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis.
It now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for review.
A similar bill failed in the Senate in 2019, after the Senate Appropriations Committee made amendments that would have exempted tobacco products with menthol, hookah tobacco and any product that has a patent prior to Jan. 1, 2000. Once those were made, Hill withdrew the bill, saying that he believed that they were included to help the tobacco industry and undermined his bill.