Black legislators continue to be tone deaf to residents and their right to choose supporting Senate Bill 793 which will ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in the state. In a sweeping 50-0 vote, Black elected officials joined White legislators on denying Black residents the right to smoke products of their choice, while exempting products favored by Middle Easterners and Whites.
There have been serious discussions surrounding the potential ramifications of a ban on flavored tobacco products, including menthol, that divided the Black community.
Community leaders, on both side of the argument, weighed in on a controversial bill authored by Sen. Jerry Hill. The faith based community and civil rights organizations rallied around the right to choose while others made the issue a matter of ones health.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2014-2015, 77% of non-HIspanic Black adults, who smoked, reported they usually use menthol cigarettes compared to 24.6% of white adults who smoke non-menthol products.
Community organization Neighborhood Forward pressed for meetings with Gov. Gavin Newsom and Speaker Anthony Rendon before the final vote, to no avail.
Rendon in particular seems gung ho on disenfranchising minorities, with numerous bills that he has either supported (SB 625) and/or flat out rejected (SB 562), which affects millions of residents across South Los Angeles.
Hours after the California Senate voted 34-0 to pass SB 793, Newsom was “eager” to sign the bill.
“It is a point of deep pride and personal privilege to sign this bill,” said Newsom.
SB 793 is aimed at preventing children from smoking. It’s already illegal for retailers to sell tobacco to anyone under 21. But advocates say flavored tobacco products are still too easy for teens to get.
The CDC reported that cigarette smoking causes 480,000 deaths per year and 41,000 deaths due to second hand smoke.
The state of California is facing a severe budget shortfall and has targeted another industry which will further reduce the state’s sales tax revenue. Other states have adopted higher taxes on tobacco products as a way to balance their budgets.
Legislators continue to push for laws that will lead to a Black market on the sale of these products as they can still be purchased online and sold on the streets.
Asm. Heath Flora called the bill hypocritical for not going after flavored cannabis products.
In November 2016, voters overwhelmingly supported legalization with 57% of residents favoring the CA Marijuana Legalization Initiative which could be the direction the industry takes after SB 793 was signed into law.
SB 793 goes into effect January 1, 2021 where Newports, Swisher Sweets and flavored vape juice, will no longer be sold in retail outlets. The bill does not make it a crime to possess flavored tobacco products. But it makes it illegal to sell them. Retailers could be fined up to $250.
Hookah, pipe tobacco and cigars worth more than $12 are exempt from the ban.