May 24, 2019

Stanton A. Glantz, PhD

Tobacco companies kill California state flavor ban

Here is a summary of what happened from CalMatters:

Legislation to curb e-cigarettes favored by teenagers died Thursday after a Senate committee agreed to industry-backed amendments that all but gutted the measure.

CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera delved into the intense lobbying by tobacco and e-cigarette companies over the measure earlier this week.

Democratic Sen Jerry Hill of San Mateo pulled his Senate Bill 38 from consideration after the measure’s main backers—the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Lung Association in California and the American Heart Association—withdrew their support.

The bill would have banned flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products.

Amendments included one that would have permitted flavored hookah tobacco at hookah lounges, something hookah aficionados contended was important culturally .

Hill said in a statement: “I find it hard to believe that use of gummy bear and bubble gum-flavored tobacco in any form is a cultural tradition.”

Aguilera writes: “Never doubt the power of the tobacco lobby in California.”

The fact that the tobacco companies managed to kill the bill in the Senate shows real muscle was behind this effort and highlights the importance of prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products.

For the first time anyone could remember, the hookah bars were highly organized and lobbying hard.  I wouldn't be surprised if that effort was bankrolled by the big cigarette companies and their sidekick Juul.  It certainly wouldn't be the first time that they hid behind what they call "third parties." 

While the hookah bar exemption is what triggered the health groups' (appropriate) decision to withdraw their support, the even more dangerous clause the industry got inserted was one exempting products that were patented before 2000.  That would likely have exempted both Philip Morris e-cigarettes and its heated tobacco product IQOS from the prohibition on flavored tobacco sales (details).  People need to watch for similar clauses elsewhere.

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