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Despite Big Tobacco’s multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to stop legislation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in California, the Legislature passed and Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly signed Senate Bill 793 into law last Friday. More than 60 senators and assemblymembers coauthored the bill, which is now one of the strongest antitobacco laws in the country.
The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2021.
CDA and more than two dozen health care, youth and community organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association and the Black Caucus of Health Workers, supported Sen. Jerry Hill’s (D-San Mateo) bill to keep flavored vaping liquids, menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products out of retail stores and vending machines statewide. Only a few tobacco products, including hookah tobacco, were exempted from the ban in late amendments to the bill.
Federal laws didn’t go far enough
Teens’ e-cigarette use has continued to rise with an overwhelming majority of youths citing a preference for popular fruit and menthol or mint flavors, as CDA reported last month. Those flavors mask the naturally harsh taste of tobacco and instead mimic the flavors of popular sugary drinks and candy, making the products easier to use and harder to quit.
CDA and coalition members said federal laws enacted in recent years to regulate flavored tobacco products don’t go far enough because they do not apply to menthol cigarettes and only restrict flavors in some cartridge-based e-cigarettes, leaving flavored e-liquids widely available.
And a fact sheet on the bill from Sen. Hill’s office notes that Big Tobacco has a well-documented record of targeting its product marketing to low-income communities, communities of color and other communities that are already “impacted by social inequities.”
In a statement, Assemblymember Jim Wood, DDS (Santa Rosa) said, “This new law will do so much to prevent kids from taking up the deadly and harmful habit of smoking and becoming addicted to nicotine. Smoking has never been safe, ever, and never will.”
Despite this victory in the Legislature, the tobacco industry has already filed a referendum for the November 2022 ballot that would let voters decide whether to repeal the bill. If enough signatures are collected to qualify, the law would be suspended until the 2022 election, allowing retail stores and vending machines to continue selling the products for two more years.
“We are strongly opposed to Big Tobacco’s cynical ploy to keep highly addictive, candy-flavored nicotine products in the hands of children,” said CDA President Richard Nagy, DDS. “With a resounding passage through the Legislature and swift action by Gov. Newsom, it is clear that Californians prioritize oral health and overall health over corporate greed.”
CalMatters, the Sacramento Bee and the Los Angeles Times also reported on the signing of SB 793 and the tobacco industry’s television and social media advertising blitz that the bill’s supporters called inaccurate.
SB 793 became a major priority for CDA when the bill was introduced early this year before the World Health Organization declared the new coronavirus a pandemic. Learn more about CDA’s major issues and priorities for 2020, including lessening COVID-19’s impact on dentistry.