California would become the first state in the nation to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including the mango- and mint-flavored Juul nicotine pods popular among teens, if proposed legislation advanced by lawmakers Wednesday becomes law.
The Senate Health Committee passed SB38, which would prohibit retail stores and vending machines from selling flavored tobacco, including nicotine cartridges that evoke the smell and taste of candy, dessert and fruit. The ban would also apply to flavored hookah, cigars, cigarillos, chew and snuff. But it would not ban the sale of the smoking devices themselves, like electronic cigarettes or vape pens, unless the devices come packaged together with the flavor cartridges — in which case the products would have to be de-coupled and the device sold separately.
The measure is co-authored by state Sens. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and sponsored by the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association.
It is early days for the bill, which now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. A companion bill in the Assembly, AB739, has been introduced but has not been heard by any committees yet.
Under the bill, stores that violate the ban would be subject to civil penalties ranging from $400 to $600 for the first violation, and up to $5,000 to $6,000 for the fifth violation within five years. Stores that do not comply could also have their tobacco license suspended for 40 to 90 days after the third offense.
The bill’s proponents say they hope to limit the number of teens who vape, mostly for the appealing flavors. But vaping industry groups and manufacturers argue that such policies would harm adult cigarette smokers who vape as a way to wean off traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are not approved by federal regulators as a smoking cessation product, but some smokers have attested that vaping helps them smoke fewer cigarettes.
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