California lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday that would make it the first state to outlaw the sale of both flavored tobacco and nicotine products, substances critics say lure in underage customers.
The proposed legislation, which has passed its first hurdle in the state’s Senate Health Committee, would outlaw the sale of flavored tobacco and flavored nicotine cartridges, which come in alluring flavors that users can load into vaping devices. The legislation also cracks down on flavored hookahs, cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco and snuff.
The bill’s authors, state Sens. Jerry Hill (D) and Steve Glazer (D), have both raised concerns that these flavored products are attractive to kids.
“Even in middle school, kids are Vaping: in the hallways, on the play fields in the classroom,” Glazer tweeted Wednesday.
It’s true that researchers have spotted a stunning jump in teen vaping ― the use of e-cigarettes that contain nicotine but not tobacco ― in the past year. From 2017 to 2018, 1.3 million more high schoolers started smoking with vaping devices, a study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found in December. It was the the largest annual jump in the use of any substance that the group had ever witnessed in the research project’s 44-year history.
Nonetheless, legislative efforts to reduce the appeal of vaping remain controversial. Popular companies that produce the products, such as Juul, argue that vaping devices help people quit traditional using cigarettes containing tobacco, the main ingredient associated with smoking’s adverse health effects. Flavoring those products helps people make the switch, the industry argues.
However, most studies haven’t found the data to back up either claim. Furthermore, vaping devices still include nicotine, which raises users’ blood pressure and increases their likelihood of having a heart attack.
There are already more than two dozen counties and cities in California with laws on the books restricting the sale of these flavored products.
The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on them, too. Earlier this month, it proposed rules requiring retailers to only display these items in a section of the store that’s off-limits to anyone under the age of 18, essentially preventing convenience stores and gas stations from selling the products.
The bill now moves on to the state’s Senate Appropriations Committee.