In summary

Big Tobacco has launched a strategy to revoke a new law that would end the sales of flavored tobacco and postpone the law from taking effect.

By Joaquin Arambula

Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, a Democrat from Fresno and an emergency room doctor, represents the 31st Assembly District, Assemblymember.Arambula@assembly.ca.gov.

Jim Wood, Special to CalMatters

Assemblymember Jim Wood, a Democrat from Healdsburg and a dentist, represents the 2nd Assembly District, Assemblymember.Wood@assembly.ca.gov.

As an emergency room doctor in the under-resourced Central Valley and a dentist with a forensic specialty, we’ve seen how the tobacco industry uses enticing, flavored images to lure people into a lifetime of smoking. And, we’ve seen how tobacco ravages the human body, with death too often the fatal consequence.

The tobacco industry’s latest hook – aimed squarely at young people – is veiled in the vaping form of candy flavors like mint, mango, blueberry, marshmallow and more. To combat this pernicious effort, the California Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom this year took substantial steps to derail it.

But that’s not stopping Big Tobacco. More on that in a minute.

Let us begin here: For decades, Big Tobacco used minty menthol enhancements to tempt people. That first puff of smoke could lead to nicotine addiction – and years of big profits. As a physician and a dentist, we lament the huge toll this has taken on our communities, in particular on our low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. 

Big Tobacco has preyed on these communities, pumping out lethal products at cheaper prices and selling them on a wide scale in predominantly African American and poor neighborhoods. The result? Among adult African American smokers, about 70% smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to just 18% of white adults.

Federal regulations now are more restrictive on the manufacturing, marketing and sales of tobacco products. But that didn’t stop Big Tobacco’s efforts to circumvent these rules. They’re targeting young people with a rainbow of candy-tasting electronic cigarettes, better known e-cigarettes and vaping.

This year, California legislators fiercely fought to end this tactic, with the support of more than two dozen health care, youth and community organizations. Despite the staggering amount of lobbying money spent by the tobacco industry, legislators in August passed a milestone bill, Senate Bill 793, to end the sales of flavored tobacco. Newsom swiftly signed it into law – a victory to save the lives of future generations as well as positioning our state to save billions of dollars in future health care costs.

But almost before the ink could dry, Big Tobacco launched a new strategy to revoke the law – spend a ton of money not only to get a referendum on the November 2022 state ballot but halt the law in the meantime. That means Big Tobacco could keep raking in huge profits for another 22 months. What’s worse, the tobacco companies could ensnare an estimated 37,000 more young people during that time into e-cigarette addiction.

How? If the tobacco companies succeed in collecting enough signatures this year, the law won’t go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

We ask you to do this:

Don’t fall for this smoke-and-mirrors trick.

Don’t sign these petitions.

Don’t be taken in by Big Tobacco’s money-fueled maneuver to hook young people into years of addiction and health problems that will ruin their lives.

Let’s do the right thing for our children. Let’s protect them from harm and keep these destructive products out of their hands. Let’s give them a brighter, healthier future.

The health of each of us depends on the health of all of us – that’s our prescription for a strong and flourishing California.

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