Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and in California. To address this enormous toll, the American Lung Association calls for the following actions to be taken by California's elected officials:
1. Prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol;
2. Expand protections against secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing, outdoor dining and recreation areas; and
3. Ensure parity between taxation on tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Landmark legislation was introduced and passed in the California legislature to prohibit the sale of most flavored tobacco products. This legislation, Senate Bill 793, was introduced by Senator Jerry Hill. While the legislation included exemptions for flavored hookah in certain locations, loose leaf tobacco and premium cigars, this bill did not have an exemption for menthol—a vital component of flavored tobacco legislation. Despite the tobacco industry's efforts to kill the bill throughout the legislative process, on August 28,2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 793 into law.

While this victory was significant, it was ultimately placed on hold; on August 31, 2020, the tobacco industry filed a referendum with the California Secretary of State to repeal the new law. In order for the referendum to qualify, 5% of the 2018 gubernatorial election vote would be needed via signature. Collection of the required signatures meant the law did not go into effect on January 1, 2020, and instead will be put before the voters in the 2022 election. This attack on SB 793 was a way for the tobacco industry to not only prolong the implementation date of the legislation, but give them more time to pour millions of dollars into pro-tobacco ads to keep deadly products on the market in California.

The California Tobacco Control Program has funded numerous local county and state grants focused on providing tobacco policies in areas of need. In the past year, we continue to work on multiple tobacco control grants throughout the state in the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Butte, and San Diego. These grants focus on policies such as smokefree multi-unit housing, smokefree dining, smokefree outdoor areas, and youth access to tobacco related issues.

With SB 793 on hold, the Lung Association will encourage local jurisdictions to continue passing local ordinances that prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco in 2021. As local leaders are engaged to pass these ordinances, it also provides an opportunity to engage with state lawmakers and the public to make them aware of Big Tobacco's attempt to keep flavored tobacco on the shelves.

An additional area of opportunity will be taxation on e-cigarettes. Governor Newsom indicated in 2020 that he had interest in establishing a different tax on e-cigarettes. The Lung Association will support such efforts as long as parity between e-cigarettes and tobacco products is maintained.

Lastly, the American Lung Association will continue to advocate for ordinances that expand protections against secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing, dining areas and recreational areas.
  • California Facts
  • Economic Cost Due to Smoking: $13,292,359,950

  • Adult Smoking Rate: 10.0%

  • High School Smoking Rate: 2.0%

  • High School Tobacco Use Rate: 12.7%

  • Middle School Smoking Rate: 0.7%

  • Smoking Attributable Deaths per Year: 39,950

Adult smoking data come from CDC's 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, respectively. High school (11th grade only) smoking and tobacco use data and middle school (8th grade only) smoking rates come from the 2017-2018 California Student Tobacco Survey.

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