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California Proposition 31: Ban On Flavored Tobacco Products
Proposition 31 would uphold a 2020 state law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
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With Proposition 31, Californians will decide whether to enact one of the nation’s most comprehensive statewide bans on flavored tobacco. It is a vote on whether a state law should be implemented or rejected.

The official title on the ballot: Flavored Tobacco Products Ban Referendum

WHAT YOUR VOTE MEANS
  • A "yes" vote means that you'd be voting to:

      • Uphold a 2020 state law that bans the sale of flavored cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or vapes
    • A "no" vote means that you'd be voting to:

      • Overturn the 2020 law, allowing stores and vending machines to continue selling flavored tobacco products

    What The Measure Would Do

    Proposition 31 would make it illegal for stores and vending machines to sell flavored cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or vapes, including those flavored with menthol. The sale of hookah tobacco, some types of cigars, and loose-leaf tobacco would not be affected if the ballot measure passes.

    The ballot measure defines a flavored tobacco product as one that “has a flavor, apart from the regular tobacco flavor. Flavors could include fruit, mint, menthol, honey, chocolate, and vanilla, for example.”

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    Sales of gums or gummies that contain nicotine and are not approved by the FDA would also be prohibited. Retailers who violate the law would face a $250 penalty for each violation.

    At issue is a 2020 state law (SB 793) that would have banned the sale of those products. However, it never went into effect. Days after its passage in 2020, Big Tobacco companies launched a referendum drive to overturn the law, bringing its implementation to a halt. That’s what is on your ballot now.

    A “yes” vote on Proposition 31 would uphold the 2020 law, banning the sale of flavored tobacco. A “no” vote would overturn the 2020 law, allowing stores and vending machines to continue selling flavored tobacco products.

    Many large and small communities in California already have their own flavored tobacco bans. The cities of Los Angeles and San Diego will implement prohibitions in January 2023.

    If Proposition 31 passes, local ordinances that are more restrictive than the state law would remain in place while the state law would override any local bans that are weaker.If the referendum fails, all local ordinances would remain in effect.

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    Arguments For

    Supporters of the statewide ban, which Proposition 31 would uphold, say the measure is intended to protect young people from getting addicted.

    “We can stop Big Tobacco from using flavors to get kids hooked on nicotine and profiting from addiction, disease, and death,” former state Sen. Jerry Hill, who authored the 2020 law, told lawmakers at a recent legislative hearing on Proposition 31. “If we can save even a few lives by ending the sale of candy-flavored tobacco, it will all be worth it.”

    Who supports Proposition 31?

    The following politicians and organizations have been vocal in their support.

    Full list of supporters of Proposition 31

    Arguments Against

    Opponents argue that the sale of tobacco to persons under the age of 21 is already illegal in California, so Proposition 31 isn’t necessary.

    They also argue that Proposition 31 would infringe on the rights of adults who use flavored tobacco and say it is discriminatory against Black and Latino tobacco users who favor menthol cigarettes. Tobacco companies have heavily marketed menthol cigarettes to Black and Latino tobacco users.

    Who's against Proposition 31?

    Follow The Money

    Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a major funder of efforts to combat tobacco use, is the biggest funder of Proposition 31. His support swamps the spending by tobacco companies against Proposition 31.

    Potential Financial Impact

    The ballot measure’s official financial impact statement

    Lower Tobacco Tax Revenues. Proposition 31 likely would reduce state tobacco tax revenues by an amount ranging from tens of millions of dollars to around $100 million annually. (Last year, state tobacco tax revenue was about $2 billion.) This revenue loss would reduce funding for the types of programs listed in Figure 1, such as health care.

    The size of this revenue loss depends largely on how consumers respond to the proposition. …

    Uncertain Changes in State and Local Government Health Care Costs. State and local governments pay for health care for their employees and for qualifying low-income people. Proposition 31 likely would reduce tobacco use, leading to better health. In the short term, better health likely would reduce some health care costs for state and local governments. The amount of savings is uncertain. Over time, better health could lengthen some people’s lives, which could increase health care costs. Given that the proposition could result in both health care savings and increased health care costs for state and local governments over time, the resulting long-term net change in state and local government health care costs is uncertain.

    What that actually means: Proposition 31 likely would reduce state tobacco tax revenues, but the legislative analyst’s office isn’t sure how much.

    If flavored tobacco users simply switch from flavored tobacco products to unflavored tobacco products, the impact on state tobacco tax revenue would be smaller than if flavored tobacco users stopped smoking entirely. If the FDA finalizes its proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, the revenue loss due to Proposition 31 specifically would be smaller.

    The report notes that tobacco tax revenue last year was about $2 billion and 56% of that went to health care programs such as Medi-Cal, which provides health care coverage to some low-income California residents.

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