Yesterday, time expired on the most recent session of the California legislative calendar, and it came and went without any action on a variety of tobacco measures.
While smokers shouldn’t be celebrating a complete victory yet, it means that potential tax increases, a minimum purchasing age increase, modified smoking ban and other provisions are likely on hold until next year.
A special session had been called in California to help deal with highway spending, as well as to resolve a budget shortfall in the state’s healthcare system. Legislators, particularly in the California Senate, took the opportunity to not only address revenue for healthcare, but also propose other tobacco restrictions.
Those seven bills are:
- S.B.X2 5 — Would classify e-cigarettes and vaping devices as “tobacco products.”
- S.B.X2 6 — Would extend the smoking ban to most businesses with more than five employees.
- S.B.X2 7 — Would increase the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21.
- S.B.X2 8 — Would promote tobacco-free policies and education programs at schools.
- S.B.X2 9 — Would allow for local governments to impose additional taxes on tobacco products.
- S.B.X2 10 — Would increase the licensing fees for tobacco sellers.
- A.B.X2 16 — Would raises taxes on cigarettes from 87 cents to $2 per pack. Because California’s tax on cigars and other tobacco products is based on the cigarette tax, this would likely double the cigar tax from around 30 percent to over 65 percent of the wholesale price.
Each of the Senate bills passed the upper chamber without much issue, but were expected to face much more opposition in the other half of the Legislature.
Information from the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR) sent to halfwheel indicates that negotiations over how to fix the budgetary shortfall are expected to continue throughout the remainder of the year.
None of the bills are dead, as the Special Session—which carries different rules than the normal legislative process—will continue in 2016. It’s expected at the very least that some of the bills will be reintroduced next year.
That same source indicated that both sides proposed modified versions of the minimum age increase, but ultimately there wasn’t enough agreement for its passage.