The ban in California took effect and was prompted by the steep rise in teen tobacco and vaping use. Research shows that kids start with flavored cigarettes and vaping products like bubble gum and cotton candy.
Tobacco Industry’s Efforts to Block the Ban
Two years ago, the California legislature passed a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. The industry pushed back, gathering enough signatures to put the issue up for a referendum vote. It spent tens of millions of dollars to help oppose the ban, known as Proposition 31. But 63 percent of voters approved it in November, and the state’s highest court upheld it Monday.
The tobacco companies that brought the lawsuit argued that the ban conflicts with federal laws, giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco sales. They also argued that they would face “substantial financial losses” because menthol cigarettes make up about a third of the California market.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law does not preempt state regulations on tobacco. And a lower court has rejected the industry’s arguments.
Researchers who support the flavored vape ban in California argue that flavorings lure young people into smoking. They say removing those flavors could help reduce the number of smokers and their associated health problems. They also point to studies showing that when menthol cigarettes were banned in Canada, a large number of smokers switched to unflavored varieties.
Flavors Are a Big Part of Nicotine Addiction
A growing movement is underway to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. Supporters include doctors, child welfare advocates, and the state’s dominant Democratic Party. They say the products are a huge lure for kids and that curbing their availability will help stop teen vaping and smoking. The ban would also make it illegal to sell flavored tobacco products to people under 21. Some cities, including Los Angeles and San Diego, already have such a ban.
The industry spent tens of millions to put the issue of a menthol cigarette ban on the November ballot, and they argued that it would cost them billions in lost revenue. They also warned that it will lead to a spike in youth deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. But the evidence is overwhelming: flavored tobacco products attract kids, especially menthol cigarettes, and increase their addiction to nicotine.
The FDA currently bans flavors in cigarette packaging but not in other tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and cigars. But menthol-flavored e-cigarettes still account for about a third of legal sales, and the flavor is available online. A new study found that young Californians continue to smoke menthol cigarettes even after the state’s 2022 flavored tobacco ban took effect. It’s time for policymakers at every level to follow California’s example and take bold action to prevent the next generation from becoming hooked on nicotine.
Vaping Is a Big Part of Nicotine Addiction
When people smoke, they inhale nicotine and many other toxins that can cause diseases. The use of vaporizers or vaping allows people to get the nicotine they crave without many of the harmful toxins found in cigarette smoke. For some people, this can make it easier for them to quit smoking.
However, e-cigarettes have become a threat to public health, with the possibility that they could re-normalize smoking in society after decades of declining consumption. This could undo all the hard-won gains in protecting people’s health.
To combat this growing threat, the FDA is working to regulate flavored tobacco products like menthol cigarettes. The agency recently published a draft of rules that would require manufacturers to change the packaging of their products in a way that would make them less attractive to children and young adults.
Vaping Is a Big Part of Tobacco Addiction
The Supreme Court’s rejection of a tobacco industry challenge to California’s flavored tobacco ban sets the stage for enforcing a law that the Legislature and voters have approved. It’s a big win for anti-tobacco advocates who want to stop young people from getting hooked on nicotine through enticing flavors like mango, strawberry, and vanilla.
Those pushing for the law say it will help kids quit smoking and save millions in health care costs. Supporters include doctors, child welfare advocates, and the state’s dominant Democratic Party. The opposition includes a powerful group of tobacco companies and retailers trying to keep their profits.
They spent tens of millions of dollars to defeat the 2020 law in a referendum and lost. They then went to federal court in an attempt to overturn it. But they lost at a district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
They now face losing a huge chunk of their tobacco sales in one of the country’s most important markets. And they risk having to pay billions in fines for selling their deadly products to kids.