Attorney General Bonta, Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Wood, and Assembly Speaker Rivas Introduce Legislation to Improve Implementation of Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
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Legislation will provide authority to Attorney General’s office to enforce penalties against noncompliant sellers

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg), and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) today introduced AB 3218, which would help ensure the successful implementation of the flavored tobacco ban (SB 793, 2019). Today’s legislation builds on California’s actions in combatting the illegal sale of flavored tobacco products that particularly targets our youth. AB 3218 includes new enforcement efforts from the Attorney General’s office and the establishment of a list of all tobacco products that are permissibly unflavored and allowed to be sold in California.

“As the People’s Attorney, I won’t stand by as sellers across our state continue to lure our children into harmful addiction through flavored tobacco products,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Today’s legislation is the next critical step to address illicit access to these products. The bill will provide my office, as well as other state and local enforcers, with the tools and support needed to hold accountable those responsible for illegal sales, and help sellers looking to meet their obligations come into full compliance with the law. I want to thank my legislative partners who worked on this legislation that will protect the health of California’s children.”

“As a practicing dentist, I have forever opposed the use of tobacco of any kind, and will continue to support policies that restrict its use,” said Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Jim Wood. “Since my time on the Healdsburg City Council many years ago, I have successfully proposed measures to protect the health of Californians from the use of tobacco products, especially youth.”

“We must continue to crack down on flavored-tobacco sellers who prey on our children, and this legislation will provide law enforcement with new tools and authority to target the illicit, shameful vendors exploiting the law and harming our young people,” said Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas. “I thank Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is again a partner in this critical work, and Assembly member Jim Wood for their dedication and leadership.”

“We applaud Attorney General Bonta, Speaker Rivas and Assemblymember Wood for introducing this important legislation to strengthen enforcement of California’s landmark law prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products,” said Yolonda C. Richardson, President and CEO of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “This legislation will crack down on tobacco industry efforts to evade the law so they can continue to target kids, Black communities and other groups with illegal products. As California continues to lead the nation in fighting tobacco use, officials need every tool possible to counter the industry’s relentless targeting of kids and hold bad actors responsible for their actions.”  

“This bill will continue to strengthen enforcement of California’s landmark law prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products and further our goal to protect youth from a lifetime of addiction to nicotine, reduce consumption of tobacco and improve health,” said Jamie Morgan, Senior Region Lead, State Government Relations, American Heart Association.

“We are pleased to be working with Attorney General Bonta, Speaker Rivas, and Assemblymember Wood to ensure that this important law is implemented as the legislature and voters intended,” said Autumn Ogden-Smith, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network State Legislative Director. “Holding bad actors accountable is crucial to protect kids from tobacco initiation and reduce tobacco use, which is essential to stem tobacco-related diseases, including more than a dozen types of cancers." 

Tobacco companies make and market flavored tobacco products, which come with high nicotine content in a myriad of kid-friendly flavors, that are widely available for purchase on the Internet. Young people are predominately the consumers of these products, and the usage among youth has increased rapidly in recent years, specifically among middle school students. 

Without strict enforcement in this market, noncompliant sellers provide easy access to tobacco products to young consumers. In combination with youth-friendly candy and fruit-inspired flavors, which are a major focus of harm according to public health groups, this type of tobacco product is banned in California. Yet, sellers across California continue to illegally sell flavored tobacco products.

To help reach full compliance of the flavored tobacco ban, AB 3218 would:

  • Establish a publicly available list of all tobacco products that are permissibly unflavored and allowed to be sold in California.
  • Authorize the Attorney General to seek civil penalties against sellers for selling products not appearing on the Unflavored List and omit any tobacco products within the list lacking FDA authorization.
  • Render products not appearing on the Unflavored List ineligible for tax stamps, so that such products will be contraband and subject to seizure, aiding in enforcement efforts by a state agency or local law enforcement agency.
  • Revise the definition of a prohibited “characterizing flavor” to specifically include products that impart menthol-like cooling sensations, as well as other flavors that are “distinguishable by an ordinary consumer.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

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