New California Legislation Seeks to Ban Selling Tobacco Products to Those Born After 2006

California lawmakers will soon tackle Assembly Bill 935, the legislation prohibiting selling cigarettes and other tobacco products to anyone born after January 1, 2007. The proposed legislation is a phased tobacco ban that adds to the existing ban on selling tobacco products to anyone under 21 and the ban on all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes. 

“We can ensure that the next generation of children in California does not become addicted to smoking,” said Assembly member Damon Connolly, the Democrat from San Rafael who authored the bill.

If approved, the new legislation, which was patterned after New Zealand’s 2022 tobacco ban, is expected to be a template for the rest of the United States, much more than it will impact the small cohort of current teenage smokers.

“The goal here is to lead, to actually change the conversation beyond our state’s borders and really try to move the needle forward in the direction that favors public health,” Connolly said, describing his bill as “the next logical step” after the flavor ban.

The tobacco industry could sue the local government to block it, and it could also challenge the ban via vote the way it did with the flavor ban. Big Tobacco spent $22 million persuading voters to block the flavor ban, but in November, Californians voted to allow the new law to take effect.

The Orange County Register’s Sofia Hamilton wrote that regulations like Connolly’s phased ban do not effectively ban tobacco use. Observers like Hamilton are concerned over how a phased ban on tobacco would only push people towards the black market, making tobacco consumption more harmful if unregulated.

But these laws do impact public opinion. Recent polls have found that after decades of bans on advertising, restrictions on smoking in public spaces and workplaces, rising excise taxes, and almost three decades of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) listing nicotine as a drug, the popularity of the once ubiquitous tobacco has finally begun to shrink.  

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2021 that only 11.5% of adults smoked cigarettes compared to 20.6% in 2009. 

And in California, the number is even smaller for the portion of the population that would be immediately impacted by the ban if passed into law. The 2019-20 California Student Tobacco Survey found that only 9.7% of high school students used tobacco in the last 30 days, with much of this figure (8.2%) driven by vape use. 

As Big Tobacco is adapting by investing more in the vaping space, lawmakers and federal agencies are trying to catch up with ways to better regulate the vaping industry before it grows out of control.

If passed, Connolly’s bill would not punish people born before 2007 who possess or consume tobacco products, instead, “the bill would provide penalties for violations, including escalating civil fines and the suspension or revocation of the sellers license to sell tobacco products.”

Information for this briefing was found via the Associated Press, the New York Times, CDC, the 2019-20 California Student Tobacco Survey, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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