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2021 New Laws | Ban on flavored tobacco products, expansion to mental health treatment

California is banning flavored tobacco products and expanding what is considered necessary treatment for health insurance coverage.

SACRAMENTO, Calif —

A new year quickly approaching is causing many people to hope that a time of uncertainty is finally coming to an end. As 2020 comes to a close, California is enacting new laws for 2021. 

The state is banning flavored tobacco products and expanding what is considered necessary treatment for health insurance coverage. 

Here is what you need to know about these two laws that are being enforced on the first day of 2021.

SB 793 

Summary: Bans the sale of flavored tobacco products 

What's new: The new law bans any tobacco product to have flavors that are similar but not limited to fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey or mentholThe current law bans the sale of tobacco products to those who are under the age of 21.   

Those who break this law could face a fine of $250 for each violation.  

Why is it needed: According to Senator Jerry Hill, the bill's author, teens smoking e-cigarettes continued to rise in 2019, with about 80% picking up smoking through a flavored product that includes menthol cigarettes or candy vapes. Hill said teens using flavored products to mask the harshness of tobacco smoke become life-long smokers.  

According to an argument provided in the senate analysis, tobacco companies claim they make flavored tobacco products to give adult smokers variety, but flavored products play a role in introducing children to smoking.

When it goes into effect: California state officials have agreed to delay the effective date of what state lawmakers intended as a Jan. 1, 2021, ban on flavored tobacco products. They'll wait until county clerks can determine if opponents led by tobacco companies filed enough signatures to put the new law to a statewide vote. Inyo County’s top elections official says her office found many signatures do not match county records. 

The main group opposing the law says it turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. If enough signatures are valid, the measure will likely go before voters in November 2022.

SB 855

Summary:  Expands medically necessary treatment for health insurance coverage

What's new: The new law expands what is considered necessary to treat those who have mental illnesses. Substance abuse disorder and addiction are now on the list that is considered medically necessary to treat.

The current law has a list of nine mental illnesses, but the text of the new bill argues that this is a list that is both dated and incomplete.   

Why it's needed: Senator Scott Wiener (D), the bill's author, argues that it is unacceptable that those with insurance cannot access the health services they need. Wiener said expanding the law would combat deaths to drug overdose and suicide.  

The Kennedy Forum and the Steinberg Institute, who co-sponsored the bill, said in a statement in the Assembly Floor analysis that the new law would allow patients to seek help for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety or even opioid addiction before the problem becomes worse.

When it goes into effect: Jan. 1, 2021