STOCKTON, Calif. — After years of advocating to ban flavored tobacco in stores across California, anti-tobacco groups will get see their work pay off Wednesday.
"We're hugely thrilled to finally see this go into effect," said Lindsey Freitas, an advocacy director representing California and Hawaii for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free kids.
In November, California voters passed Proposition 31, which ironically was advocated by a pro-tobacco coalition. The prop came about after Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the ban of flavored tobacco products in 2020.
But the ban was delayed after the coalition representing the tobacco industry gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot.
A week ago, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's contention that the new state law conflicted with federal law.
Now starting Wednesday, flavored tobacco for e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and more can no longer be sold in stores.
"If they wanted to ban flavored tobacco or regulate it, I feel they should have selected certain stores to be authorized to retail it. It's saved so many lives, helped so many people get off cigarettes," said Carlo Sharmoug, owner of Ziggy's Smoke Shop at the corner of West Lane and Alpine Avenue in Stockton.
Sharmoug says in his fourteen years in business, his store has never once sold tobacco to a minor.
Freitas says California's tobacco rates among teens at one point began to decline until e-cigarettes appeared.
"They started being sold in flavors like grape and cherry and gummy bear. And all of a sudden, we saw our youth tobacco rates increasing again," said Freitas.
According to a study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year more than 2.5 million youth reported e-cigarette use.
Nearly 85% used flavored e-cigarettes.
"I feel a lot of other stores are going to shut down for the next six months to a year," said Sharmoug.
Smoke shops like Ziggy's say California will lose out on millions in tax revenue and believes product will be sold on the black market. However, Frietas disagrees, saying the savings in medical treatment in California alone will be huge.
"It (the state) spends about $3.5 billion a year just treating tobacco-related diseases for patient's in Medi-Cal," said Freitas.
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