Up in smoke
Here comes the power of big money!
Statewide teen vaping restrictions are being snuffed out
Despite skyrocketing teen use of e-cigarettes and local restrictions in at least 26 counties and cities, proposals to make California the nation’s first state to ban flavored tobacco are floundering—and health advocates blame Big Tobacco’s enduring clout, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.
- In the Senate:A flavored-tobacco ban is advancing, but only after being amended to exempt shisha tobacco and products patented before 2000 (except menthol cigarettes).
- In the Assembly:All tobacco-related bills have been effectively snuffed out as a key committee’s chairman, Merced Democrat Adam Gray, has opted not to hear them. Gray says a “thoughtful” compromise is being negotiated. Health advocates say that’s news to them.
Use of e-cigarettes was up 78% last year among middle and high schoolers to more than one in five students, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So why the legislative reticence?
Kati Phillips, California Common Cause: “What you are seeing there is the influence of big money. When you can afford to have direct access to lawmakers they tend to listen to you. They are buying a seat at the table.”
Money matters: Members of the Assembly’s Governmental Organization committee have received $23,500 from Juul Labs, the San Francisco-based maker of e-cigarettes and flavored pods, and about $89,000 from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in the first quarter of this year in political contributions.
- Health advocates sayflavored tobacco products are designed to lure young people into vaping and nicotine addiction. Opponents of the bills deny this and say the products help smokers quit.