With Gov. Newsom’s Signature,… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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With Gov. Newsom’s Signature, California Makes History by Ending the Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products; Kids Can Celebrate Victory Over Tobacco Industry

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
August 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – California Gov. Gavin Newsom today made history and delivered a huge win for kids over the tobacco industry by signing a new law that ends the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes. With this landmark law, Governor Newsom and California lawmakers have sent an unmistakable message to the tobacco industry: Your long and deadly history of targeting Americans – including kids and Black, LGBTQ and other vulnerable communities – with flavored tobacco products is finally coming to an end. The nation’s largest state is once again leading the fight against tobacco use – the number one cause of preventable death – and setting a powerful example that other states and the entire country should quickly follow.

The 58-1 Assembly vote and 34-0 Senate vote underscore both the tremendous level of bipartisan support and how popular this measure is. The tobacco industry should heed these votes and comply with the law.

We applaud Gov. Newsom and all the California lawmakers who supported this legislation and fought courageously and tirelessly to protect the state’s kids and health from the tobacco industry. They deserve enormous credit for rejecting the tobacco industry’s multimillion-dollar barrage of lies and taking action to stop this predatory industry from exploiting kids and lives for profit. They are truly heroes for healthy kids.

Additional Background

The new law will protect the health of California’s nearly 40 million residents, including nearly 9 million kids. The law cracks down on the products that have long been the tobacco industry’s most powerful weapons in targeting and hooking kids and the Black community. In California, more than 85% of youth who use e-cigarettes use flavored products, and more than 85% of youth who use little cigars use flavored cigars. In addition, more than half of U.S. youth smokers – including seven out of ten Black youth smokers – smoke menthol cigarettes, as do 85% of all Black smokers. Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes is not just a health issue but a social justice issue as well. And after decades of ruthlessly marketing menthol cigarettes with devastating consequences, the tobacco industry is now doing it with flavored e-cigarettes.

Both the Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly passed the legislation and sent it to Gov. Newsom for his signature. Among the legislative leaders were lead Senate sponsor Jerry Hill, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Assembly Health Committee Chair Jim Wood and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty.

This legislation is critical to reverse the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop tobacco companies from using appealing flavors to lure kids into a lifetime of addiction. It comes at a critical time with growing concerns among health experts that smoking and vaping can worsen the effects of COVID-19. California becomes the second state in the nation (after Massachusetts) to prohibit the sale of both flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.

Ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes is a necessary step to reverse skyrocketing youth use of e-cigarettes and prevent e-cigarettes from addicting a new generation. Just last week, the CDC released its 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) results, which were a powerful reminder of the severity of the youth e-cigarette epidemic. The YRBS found that 32.7% of U.S. high school students were current e-cigarette users in 2019, up from 13.2% in 2017 and that a large percentage of those youth are heavily addicted. The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic – 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use. 

Furthermore, menthol masks the harshness of smoking and makes cigarettes more addictive, making it easier for kids to start smoking and harder for smokers to quit. As a result, Black Americans quit smoking at lower rates and die at higher rates than other groups from tobacco-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death for African Americans. Ending the sale of menthol cigarettes will have enormous public health benefits, especially among African Americans. It will reduce the number of young people who start smoking, help more smokers quit, save lives and reduce tobacco-related health disparities.

As U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, so aptly wrote in The Sacramento Bee recently: “As we continue to push to protect Black lives, we must put an end to one of the most pernicious destroyers of Black health and lives: deadly menthol cigarettes and the tobacco industry’s decades-long targeted marketing to our kids and communities. Big Tobacco’s greedy and ruthless strategy has worked all too well. … The results have been devastating. The data doesn’t lie. Black Americans die from heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other tobacco-related diseases at rates far higher than others. Roughly 45,000 Black men and women are dying at the hands of Big Tobacco every single year.”

It is important to note that the California law is carefully written to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products and penalizes retailers who sell flavored products. It does not make it illegal for someone to purchase, possess or use flavored products.