Californians overwhelmingly supported Proposition 31 on Tuesday, upholding a law restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products passed by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020. The law goes into effect five days after the election is certified, and will make California the largest state in the nation to end the sale of most flavored tobacco – including menthol cigarettes.
“Thank you to everyone who voted YES. Your vote will take these products off the market in California,” said Kathy Rogers, executive vice president, American Heart Association, Western States.
California will now have the nation’s strongest protections against the tobacco industry’s business model that markets deadly tobacco products to kids, especially those who live in Black and brown communities.
“Big Tobacco will no longer be able to use flavored tobacco products to attract kids to nicotine and profit from addiction, disease and death,” Rogers said. “The positive impact on our communities, families, and youth will be immense. Less addiction, less disease, less death, and more tobacco-free futures.”
Tobacco companies target Black and brown communities more aggressively with marketing of flavored tobacco. For the past 50 years, Big Tobacco has aggressively targeted the Black community with minty menthol. In fact, 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes, and smoking is the leading cause of preventable death among African Americans.
“This impact will be felt immediately,” Rogers added. “Prop. 31 protects kids from flavored-tobacco products, reducing the likelihood of their ever trying tobacco, saving countless lives, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars annually.”
Study after study shows the reason most young people start using e-cigarettes – and why they get hooked – is because they are sold in the candy, fruit and mint flavors kids like. In fact, tobacco companies intentionally use flavors like bubble gum, blue raspberry, chocolate, and minty-menthol to mask the strong hits of nicotine, a highly addictive drug that is especially dangerous for young people, harming brain development and impacting their attention, mood and impulse control.
In California, nearly all high school students who use e-cigarettes prefer flavored products; and 80% of kids who have tried tobacco started with a flavored product.
Today, more than 2 million middle and high school students nationwide use e-cigarettes. Each year, 6,800 California kids become new daily smokers and 4 out of 5 kids who use tobacco started with a flavored product. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in California, where tobacco-related diseases kill 40,000 people every year. Of all the kids who become new smokers each year, almost a third will eventually die from it.
Two years ago, the California Legislature passed SB 793, a bill to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products in California, including minty-menthol cigarettes. The bipartisan bill was passed to protect children from getting hooked on flavored tobacco products.
Big Tobacco companies opposed this bill as it directly impacted their ability to reach and addict new consumers – California’s children. The industry then filed and qualified a referendum for California’s November 2022 statewide ballot. And Californians responded.
“Public health has prevailed. Tonight, California voted to protect its future – to save lives,” Rogers said. “And I am proud to say the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association were standing alongside as a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.”