cigarettes and candy
By IHPL - August 1, 2023

Harm from tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure is well known, with its link to cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes, among others.1 Government agencies at the local, state and federal levels have implemented various laws and policies to help protect the public from its detrimental effects.2

However, while the government was doing its part to ensure the safety of the public, the tobacco companies were also working hard to ensure their business stayed lucrative. For example, they created tobacco products with flavors such as fruit, mint, and candy that would be enticing more to young people and children than to adults, ensuring large cohorts of lifetime customers hooked on their products.3 Furthermore, packaging for these flavored tobacco products tends to be colorful, smaller in size and conveniently placed next to the cash register to attract the attention of young children.4

In August of 2020, Senate Bill (SB) 793 was passed in California, prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products except for those used in premium cigars, hookahs, or loose-leaf forms.5 One of the goals of this law was to support one of California’s most vulnerable population—the youth—since a study conducted in 2015 and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that four out of five youth who smoke started with flavored tobacco.5

The law was set to go into effect on January 1, 2021, but was delayed due to a referendum seeking its appeal. Opponents of the ban were able to collect enough signatures to repeal the law. Needless to say, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Phillip Morris USA, Inc. were supporters of the repeal, contributing $18 million to the effort.5 The referendum required a simple majority to pass, and it did indeed pass, bringing relief to children’s health advocates and the public health community. Consequently, SB 793 became effective on January 1, 2023. Violation of the law will result in a $250 fine per infraction and subject the retailer to any local regulations within their jurisdiction that may be more stringent than the state law.

California is not the only state that has long been a proponent of reducing tobacco consumption and its harmful effects. Others have preceded California, and hopefully many more will eventually catch up as well. The greater hope would be that the federal government follows suit and this ban on flavored tobacco becomes a national ban to help save one of our most vulnerable populations: our youth.

Author Bio:

Rasha Abdrabou, DrPH, MPH

Dr. Abdrabou is the Chair for the Physician Assistant Sciences Department in the School of Allied Health as well as the Program Review and Assessment Director. She is also an Assistant Professor for the department. Her research interests include the opioid crisis and its implications for different populations, food insecurity and health policies on food quality.