In Election 2022 in California, Proposition 31 ia a referendum bankrolled by tobacco industry with the intention of overturning a law passed by the California legislature in 2020. Voting YES will allow the law to take effect.
Over the last few years, tobacco corporations have evaded the ban on selling tobacco products to minors by selling flavored preparations. They calculate that these are are so attractive to children that they will find ways to obtain them, and become addicted for life to nicotine.
In 2020, the California Legislature adopted Senate Bill 793 (SB-793), which banned the sale of most flavored tobacco products. The few exceptions are products used almost entirely by adults, like expensive flavored cigars. As the bill’s sponsor said, “Using candy, fruit, and other alluring flavors, the tobacco industry weaponized its tactics to beguile a new generation into tobacco addiction.”
SB 793 was so popular with the public that only one legislator voted against it. But the tobacco corporations, knowing the public supported the ban, nevertheless found a way to delay its implementation. Under California law, if a referendum against a law qualifies for the ballot, the law cannot be implemented until the voters make their decision. So they paid professional signature-gatherers millions of dollars to get enough signatures to delay the law until the election of November 2022.
How did they get the signatures? They lied. The signature-gatherers told voters that their signatures would qualify for the ballot a law that would ban selling flavored tobacco products! And the disclosure form they are legally required to show potential signers, showing that Philip Morris USA and the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company provided almost all the funding for the referendum, was not shown to the voters.
This law is a good law and should be enacted by the voters now that the delay is over. The tobacco companies have already profited from the two-year delay they paid for, and they may or may not bother to spend more money on lying ads against Proposition 31. But a vote to uphold the law will keep these conscienceless corporations from continuing to sell these products, and an overwhelming vote may help convince the legislators to take further actions that will cut into their ill-gotten gains.
This health and safety measure is the sort of law that Californians need and support, and we urge a vote of YES on Proposition 31.