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August 24, 2020
3 min to read

California Will Become the 5th State to Ban Flavors

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Jim McDonald

Note

Nov. 9, 2022 update

Yesterday, more than two years after Governor Newsom signed SB 793 into law, California voters overwhelmingly approved the law in a statewide referendum (Proposition 31). Today it was challenged in federal court by R.J. Reynolds and others.

Note

Nov. 25 update

The California flavor ban will go on hold until November 2022 after a signature-gathering campaign forced the bill to a referendum by voters.

Note

Aug. 28 update

Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 793 into law today, soon after the California Senate passed the bill (again). It will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

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The California Assembly today passed SB 793, a bill that will ban the sales of flavored vaping products in brick-and-mortar stores. The bill, if it becomes law, will also ban sales of menthol cigarettes, and flavored smokeless tobacco and small cigars.

The vape ban bill will now be reconciled with the already-passed state Senate version (which requires another vote in the Senate), then go to Governor Gavin Newsom to be signed into law. Newsom has already indicated he will sign the bill.

The amendments in the final Assembly version of the bill include exemptions to the flavor ban for hookah products, pipe tobacco and premium cigars. The independent vaping industry—once a force that turned out hundreds of vapers and vape shop owners to oppose California legislation—was barely able to muster any opposition at all, although thousands of individual vapers responded to calls to action and sent messages to legislators opposing the bill.

Even Juul Labs and the major tobacco companies were unable to successfully lobby for an exemption that would exclude products that receive PMTA approval in the future. That means a product could receive marketing approval from the FDA, but still be banned in California.

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While the bill only bans sales in brick-and-mortar retailers, California passed a law last year that makes online purchases more difficult. That law placed restrictions on online and mail order sales of all vaping products, including an adult signature-on-delivery requirement.

After weeks of a pressure campaign by some black activist groups to convince minority legislators to oppose the bill based on racial justice, the Democrats who opposed it either changed their votes to yes or didn’t vote at all. The final vote was 50-0, with all 17 Republicans, 12 Democrats and one independent member not voting rather than going on record opposing the state’s powerful tobacco control interests. [Note: the vote was left open after time ran out. The votes now show 58-1.]

It is unlikely that the bill can be stopped now. Tobacco control groups support the current version of the bill—even with the unwanted exemptions for hookah, pipe tobacco and cigars. Those powerful anti-vaping/smoking groups are the real opinion leaders among state Democrats who have majorities in both houses of the California legislature.

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The B&M flavor ban in California will more than double the number of Americans who no longer have access to flavored vaping products in retail stores. With 40 million residents, California is the most populous state in the country.

Assuming SB 793 becomes law, California will become the fifth state to ban face-to-face sales of flavored vaping products (the other states have also banned online sales). The states with existing flavor bans are:

  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island
  • New York
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will soon decide whether to sign or veto a flavor ban bill from the state legislature. State vaping businesses are leading a campaign to persuade DeSantis to veto the flavor ban.

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    Jim McDonald

    Vaping since: 12 years

    Favorite products:

    Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

    Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

    Jim McDonald

    Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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