A bill banning all e-liquid flavors except tobacco will have a hearing in a California state senate committee this Wednesday. The bill, SB 38, does not exempt vape shops or other adult-only retailers.
This bill is the first attempt to pass a statewide ban of vape flavors. If it succeeds it will shut down virtually every vape shop in California, and probably lead to a wave of flavor bans across the country.
The hearing, which is open to the public, will be held Wed., March 27 at 1:30 p.m. at the John L. Burton Hearing Room (4203) at the state capitol, 1315 10th St., in Sacramento. Try to arrive by 1:00 p.m., to allow time to go through security at the capitol.
CASAA has issued a call to action, asking that vapers attend the hearing (and speak if you want to). California residents can send messages to the Health Committee members through the CASAA page. Click the button below and take one minute to send a message if you live in one of the committee members’ districts.
Importantly, Bill SB 38 does not preempt local governments from passing even stricter restrictions on vapes. That means cities like San Francisco can ban all vapor products if they so choose. And San Francisco officials have already announced that they intend to do just that.
The statewide bill bans so-called “characterizing flavors.” That means any e-liquid — bottled liquid, or in pods or cartridges — that includes a flavor other than tobacco will be prohibited.
“A tobacco retailer, or any of the tobacco retailer’s agents or employees, shall not sell, offer for sale, or possess with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product,” says the bill. It defines a characterizing flavor as “a distinguishable taste or aroma, or both, other than the taste or aroma of tobacco, imparted by a tobacco product or any byproduct produced by the tobacco product.”
How do they know a specific e-liquid has a “characterizing flavor”? Basically, if anyone has ever said that it does:
“There shall be a rebuttable presumption that a tobacco product is a flavored tobacco product if a manufacturer or any of the manufacturer’s agents or employees, in the course of his or her agency or employment, 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.”
“Characterizing flavors include, but are not limited to, tastes or aromas relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint, wintergreen, herb, or spice,” says the California Senate bill.
The Los Angeles City Council is holding a committee hearing on its own flavor ban proposal on the same day as the Assembly hearing. Vapers from Los Angeles who are unable to attend the hearing in Sacramento will have an opportunity to be heard in L.A. Details are below. Follow the THR Policy Facebook page for changes to the agenda or meeting time.
Wed., March 27 1:00 p.m.
City Hall - Room 1060
200 N. Spring St., Los Angeles 90012
CASAA has also issued a call to action for the Los Angeles hearing. Visit the page today to send a message to your City Council member.
California legislators have been planning to introduce this bill since San Francisco approved a flavor ban last year. The statewide bill was announced in November, and introduced formally in early December. Make no mistake, the sponsors of this legislation want vaping to disappear.
Supporters of the San Francisco ban, including billionaire tobacco control funder Michael Bloomberg, portrayed the opposition as evil Big Tobacco stooges. The statewide bill’s sponsors will probably be eager to paint opposition to their bill the same way. That’s why it’s important for ordinary vapers and small business owners and employees to fill the capitol hearing room and explain how flavored vaping products changed their lives.
Whatever happens politically in the nation’s largest state tends to spread to the rest of the country. If no legislator in your state has proposed a flavor ban, understand that it will become much more likely to happen if a ban passes somewhere else. Likewise, a federal flavor ban would be much easier to pass if some states do it first. With more than 40 million residents, California wields huge influence over the rest of the country.
Legislators and city officials around the country will be watching California closely, gauging public opinion and the strength and makeup of the opposition, and looking for clues to how such laws might play in their jurisdictions. It’s crucially important for vapers and business owners to show California legislators that their ban is opposed by the people most affected by it.
Without grassroots vaper support, legislators are free to claim that the only opposition comes from the tobacco industry. They need to see the faces and hear the voices of the real people their ban will hurt.