Flavored Tobacco and Nicotine Products Banned in California

2022-11-12

The new law, which will take effect later this year, bans brick-and-mortar sales of all vaping products in flavors other than tobacco. The prohibition extends to nicotine-free e-liquid and so-called “flavor enhancers,” which probably includes one-shot DIY mixes.

Prop 31 would even ban flavored products authorized for sale by the FDA and designated “appropriate for the protection of public health.” (The FDA has not so far authorized any flavored products.)

The law also prohibits sales of flavored nicotine pouches (which are almost all flavored), menthol cigarettes, flavored small cigars, and flavored smokeless tobacco, including snus. The flavor ban exempts hookah products, pipe tobacco and cigars.

The law does not ban online sales, but California law makes selling vaping products online—even from outside the state—an onerous process for retailers.

California joins Massachusetts as the only states to have banned flavored vaping products along with menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. Three other states—New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island—currently have flavored vape bans (all passed in early 2020), but sales of menthol cigarettes were left untouched.

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids President Matthew Myers says the passage of Proposition 31 “provides powerful momentum for similar action by other states and cities, as well as by the FDA, which has proposed rules prohibiting menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.”

Despite being supported by just about every national and California public health and tobacco control organization, California Governor Gavin Newsom (who also won reelection yesterday) and most Democratic politicians, Myers specifically thanked only one person in the group’s press release.

“We are also grateful to Michael R. Bloomberg for the exceptional leadership he provided in this campaign,” Myers said. “No single individual has done more to fight tobacco use and save lives around the world.”

Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor with a net worth of about $77 billion, contributed nearly all of the $47 million spent by the Committee to Protect California Kids, which led the Yes on 31 campaign, according to Politico. The East Bay Times estimated it would take over 1,900 years of full-time work for the average American worker to earn as much as Bloomberg spent promoting Prop 31.

Californians Against Prohibition, the group opposing the law, has been almost entirely funded by tobacco giants Philip Morris USA (a division of Altria Group) and RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. (a subsidiary of British American Tobacco). The two tobacco companies each contributed more than $9 million to the cause, seeking mainly to protect their menthol cigarette sales in the nation’s largest state.