California’s local flavored tobacco sales restrictions were central to a multicomponent statewide campaign (CTCP).
Early policy tracking, retail observations, and opinion polls documented lower availability of flavored tobacco products in jurisdictions with a flavor ordinance, fewer tobacco advertisements, and higher awareness among retailers. This paper evaluates these findings and explains the reasons behind them.
What is the California Flavored Tobacco Ban?
The California Flavored Tobacco Ban makes selling flavored tobacco products illegal, including menthol cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and vapes. The law is aimed at curbing youths’ rising use of flavored tobacco, primarily driven by sweet flavors like cotton candy and fruit.
Supporters of the flavored tobacco ban in California, including California Governor Gavin Newsom and anti-tobacco groups, say the law is a significant step in the fight against the industry’s attempt to addict kids to nicotine through enticing flavors. Tobacco companies, in response, launched a campaign to block the state’s ban by gathering enough signatures for a referendum on the ballot, but voters rejected it.
According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 86 percent of kids who smoke cigarettes and 85 percent of those who start smoking e-cigarettes use flavored products. Health organizations hail the ban, but convenience store owners who sell flavored tobacco see it as unfairly targeting their customers and are frustrated that they can’t continue to offer them what they need.
One month after the ban took effect in 2020, sales of tax-paid cigarettes dropped 17.3 percent, a decline that will likely hit $300 million annually. In addition, cigarette smuggling increased by 6.6 percentage points during that time.
The California Supreme Court declined to block the state’s ban on Monday, but it will be in place on December 21, when the law takes full effect. The high court also refused to hear a lawsuit filed by the tobacco industry against the ban, saying the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 trumps state and local laws prohibiting the sale of certain tobacco products.
What is the California Tobacco Retailer Act?
The California Tobacco Retailer Act requires tobacco retailers to obtain and display a California and Monterey County Tobacco Retailer License (TRL) before selling tobacco products. It is a crucial step to ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal laws related to tobacco sales.
It is also illegal for retailers to purchase tobacco products from manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers, or anyone not licensed under this Act or whose license has been suspended or revoked. Doing so could result in fines, seizure of the products, and imprisonment.
As of January 1, 2017, any retailer who sells any products, including but not limited to electronic cigarettes, atomizers, vaping tanks or mods, and eLiquid or eJuice, must obtain and maintain a California Tobacco Retailer license from the CDTFA.
Moreover, the law now includes provisions prohibiting flavored tobacco product sales. It means that retailers who currently sell cigarette or roll-your-own products that contain any flavor, or those who plan to sell these products in the future, must obtain and prominently display a CDTFA license.
In addition, the new laws include more vigorous enforcement of state and local laws that prohibit tobacco sales to minors. If a retailer violates these laws by selling a tobacco product to a minor eight or more times in 24 months, their license is automatically revoked.
What is the California Tobacco Advertising Act?
The California Tobacco Advertising Act is a state law that requires tobacco product manufacturers to provide a statement on all cigarettes that states, “smoking is unhealthy.” The law is in effect for all tobacco products sold in the state and prohibits any advertisements of flavored or unflavored cigarettes on television, radio, or other media.
The Act also prohibits the distribution of nontobacco items that bear tobacco brand names or imagery and restricts sponsorship of sporting and cultural events in the brand name of a tobacco product. While the Act does not impose strict advertising restrictions on billboards, three state laws require health warnings to be displayed on outdoor billboard ads.
Tobacco manufacturers must register with the state where their establishment is located and have annual and biennial inspections. They must maintain the documents they collect in a depository and make them available to a government agency upon request.
Subtitle D: Prevention of Tobacco Smuggling – requires (allowing waivers) all tobacco products to be labeled with a unique serial number. It prevents counterfeit and fraudulent goods from entering the United States. It also prevents unauthorized importation and export of tobacco products, including those for sale in foreign countries.
In addition, it prohibits any manufacturer or importer from retaliating against an employee who discloses information about a violation of this law to the appropriate agency. The secretary can order the manufacturer or importer to abate the transgression, to reinstate the employee with back pay and compensatory damages, and to pay all costs and expenses of the complaint.
What is the California Tobacco Marketing Act?
The California Tobacco Marketing Act regulates the state’s sale of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. It also addresses issues related to cigarette and smokeless tobacco packaging and labeling.
The Tobacco Products Labelling Regulations (Cigarettes and Little Cigars) (TPLR-CLC) require 16 health warnings, eight health information messages, and four easy-to-understand toxic emissions statements on cigarettes and little cigar packages. They replace the Tobacco Products Information Regulations, which have existed since 2000.
In addition, regulations limit the promotion, placement, and flavoring of tobacco products. These restrictions include point-of-sale (POS) advertising, signs, and displays1, minimum package sizes2, and written warnings for tobacco products3.
Additionally, some jurisdictions have passed city-wide regulations prohibiting the selling certain flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. These laws limit advertising, restrict sales in health-oriented facilities such as pharmacies3, and require tobacco products to be sold in original packaging unless it meets specified pricing requirements4, 5.
The Licensing Act requires all retailers, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, and importers of cigarettes and other tobacco products to obtain and maintain a license for each type of tobacco product that they sell or distribute. These licenses are intended to reduce tax evasion by requiring record-keeping requirements, inspections, and seizures of untaxed cigarettes and tobacco products. In addition, these licensing requirements impose civil and criminal penalties on violations.