Californians vote to ban flavored tobacco products

California voters on Tuesday passed Proposition 31, which bans the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide except for hookah tobacco, loose-leaf tobacco and premium cigars. 

The proposition passed with 76% of the votes. 

The legislation was signed into law in 2020, but it did not go into effect because a referendum on the law qualified for the ballot, according to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office. That meant the law had to be held until voters decide whether to put it into effect.

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With the passing of Prop 31, in-person stores and vending machines will be prohibited from selling flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers.  

Stores and vending machine owners would be fined a $250 penalty for each violation of the above requirements. 

Among cigarette smokers, surveys suggest about 20% of adults and about 50% of kids use menthol cigarettes. Additionally, surveys suggest most users of e-cigarettes, vape cartridges, and similar devices use flavored products.

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State and local governments can have additional, stricter rules for tobacco, though they cannot change product standards. In 2016, California raised the minimum age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21. That was just a few years before the federal government followed suit in 2019. 

Last year, California’s tobacco taxes raised about $2 billion. Previous ballot propositions approved by the voters direct most of these revenues to specific programs, with the majority going to health care programs, in addition to early childhood programs and tobacco control efforts, such as preventing tobacco sales to kids.