California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 793 on Friday, banning the sale of most flavored tobacco products.
The California Senate voted in unanimous favor of the bill, which would make it illegal for retailers to sell most flavored tobacco products (though, it remains legal to possess). Retailers who violate the law could be fined up to $250, but they would not be held criminally responsible.
Senator Jerry Hill authored the bill to “protect the health and well-being of our kids.” It is argued that flavored tobacco products specifically entice those under the age of 21, so its ban has been celebrated by many as a great protection of our younger population against nicotine addiction.
Newsom called the ban “a victory for public health in CA” on Twitter and praised the efforts made to push the legislation through.
This ban comes in the state that trail-blazed marijuana legalization efforts, and from the governor who helped the state in those legalization efforts.
California made American history as the first state to attempt marijuana legalization in 1972 through Proposition 19. While that legislation effort failed, Proposition 215 succeeded in making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana 20 years later. Marijuana was legalized for recreational use in the state in 2016.
Under current California law, adults of 21 years or older are allowed to grow, possess, and use cannabis recreationally, with certain restrictions.
Governor Newsom has called marijuana legalization a “civil rights issue”, and has praised the state’s legalization of the recreational use of the drug.
“I was proud to be out in front of those efforts,” he said of the drug’s legalization. “It was about addressing the disparities. It was about addressing incarceration. It was about addressing the ills of this war on drugs.”
In other words, the health risks of young people smoking flavored tobacco is great enough to ban the product almost entirely, but the health risks of young people smoking marijuana can be overlooked so long as the cause of “civil rights” are invoked.
The American Heart Association praised California’s ban on flavored tobacco. California should also heed the Association’s recent study warning about the cardiovascular risk that smoking cannabis poses.
“The American Heart Association recommends that people not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels,” said Dr. Rose Marie Robertson, deputy chief and medical officer for the American Heart Association.
California needs to re-examine its priorities and ensure that if they are protecting the health of youth, that they do so consistently, rather than cherry-pick the drugs that best serve their political interests.