Gov. Newsom, Lt. Gov. Kounalakis to California: Beware Big Tobacco’s lies and deception to overturn landmark law to protect kids

October 08, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Advocacy Public Health 

Big Tobacco looks to make $1.1 billion in menthol sales and hook 37,000 more kids on candy-flavored e-cigarettes by stalling flavored tobacco ban

Sacramento, CA - Today Governor Gavin Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis joined legislative leaders, doctors, and public health groups to emphatically warn Californians to not be swayed by Big Tobacco’s deceptive referendum to overturn SB 793 (Hill). This life-saving legislation - passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan majorities by the California Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Newsom - will end the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products in California, also saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs for the state. Big Tobacco’s referendum is a clear attempt to overturn the overwhelming will of California and delay implementation and increase the industry’s revenue by continuing to addict our kids for as long as they possibly can.

“This is Big Tobacco’s latest attempt to profit at the expense of our kids’ health,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “California will continue to fight back and protect children from Big Tobacco.”

“I was a lead sponsor of SB 793 because I believe it’s the right thing to do to protect our children from a lifetime of negative health consequences – and the Legislature overwhelmingly agreed. This multimillion-dollar campaign to stop SB 793 just goes to show Big Tobacco will do whatever it takes to protect their profits. I hope that Californians see that Big Tobacco is holding SB 793 hostage at the cost of their health,” said Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis.

Big Tobacco has already spent $11 million to gather signatures to qualify the referendum for the November 2022 ballot; if they succeed in reaching the threshold number of signatures, January 1, 2021 implementation of SB 793 would be delayed pending the election outcome. The delay would enable Big Tobacco to generate $1.1 billion in revenue from the sale of menthol cigarettes alone during the 22 months that California’s implementation of SB 793’s flavor ban is not in effect. Approximately 17,000 lives will be lost while 37,000 more high school kids will start using e-cigarettes, costing the state $800 million in healthcare costs.

"Time and time again, Big Tobacco has shown that they will do anything to keep targeting our youth with their deadly products," said Senator Jerry Hill (D - San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties). "Now they are spending millions to deceive Californians and block implementation of a law that will save countless lives. Californians won't fall for these tricks. We will continue to be leaders in tobacco control and fight to protect our kids from Big Tobacco's candy flavored poison."

“California’s legislators and Governor Newsom stood up and became heroes for our kids with the passage of SB 793,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It’s no wonder that Big Tobacco will spend tens of millions of dollars, invent bogus ‘facts,’ and do whatever it takes to keep the revenue rolling in just to continue to market flavored products that hook young kids. And it’s no surprise they’re doing everything they can to prevent this landmark law from going into effect. We can’t allow Big Tobacco to cloud this life-saving victory in smoke and subject more kids into a lifetime of addiction. Let’s face it: The Big Tobacco play-book is played-out.”

With the passage of SB 793 (Hill), California became the second state in the nation after Massachusetts to end the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol.

"It is disappointing, but hardly surprising that Big Tobacco is working to repeal a law that protects youth from deadly and addictive tobacco products," said Peter N. Bretan Jr., M.D., President of the California Medical Association (CMA). "This coalition, the legislature and the Governor worked together to enact SB 793 because we know that it will save lives and prevent thousands of Californians from the lasting damages of the use and exposure to tobacco products. Repealing SB 793 would be a backwards step for public health."

“There are tragic consequences to any delay in implementing SB 793,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California Managing Director Jim Knox. “Tempting flavors will lure more children into tobacco use and lives will be lost as Big Tobacco’s unrelenting grip continues unabated, especially in Black communities often targeted by the industry.”

“It is cynical, but not surprising that Big Tobacco has filed to repeal SB 793 after the bill received overwhelming bipartisan support. The fact that tobacco companies continue these predatory practices - especially during a global pandemic, confirms they do not care about the kids they are trying to recruit as lifelong customers,” said Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President, American Heart Association Western States Region.

“We stand in solidarity with Governor Newsom and legislators in recognizing the tobacco industry’s predatory tactics to delay the implementation of SB 793 and keep deadly products off the shelves,” said Erica Costa, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in California. “The public must know all the facts; this referendum is simply a ploy to hook another generation on tobacco.”

“Big Tobacco just spent millions of dollars on a failed campaign to defeat SB 793, and now they’re gearing up to spend even more money to overturn the law,” said Phillip Gardiner, Co-Chair, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. "These companies are dead-set on keeping their hooks in our low-income and Black communities - relying on racist and predatory targeting of Black people with ads for menthol products. Californians defeated Big Tobacco on the ballot in 2016, and voters will stand up to this industry again - because we are committed to breaking the cycle of an industry that destroys lives and exploits our health for profit.”

“Big Tobacco is peddling its lies and using its deep pockets to deceive voters into letting them continue hooking kids on candy-flavored nicotine, purposefully designed to taste better than cigarettes,” said Meredith Berkman, Cofounder, Parents Against Vaping E-cigarettes. “With sweet-tasting tobacco on store shelves, one in five high-schoolers and one in 20 middle-schoolers use e-cigarettes. SB 793 is essential legislation to remove those products and prevent kids from a potentially deadly, life-long addiction. I’m confident California voters will stand up to Big Tobacco, reject its referendum, and stop this desperate attempt to make big profits off the lives of our children.”

“Many of our state's infants and young children are exposed to toxins such as heavy metals, ultrafine particulates, and nicotine through second-hand exposure to flavored tobacco products during a critical time in their development,” said Melissa Stafford Jones, executive director, First 5 Association of California. “For example, 80% of parents who vape do so in homes and cars. Forty percent of pregnant women who use vaping products aren't aware they contain nicotine at all. Let’s stop making it so easy for Big Tobacco to trick parents and children with fruity flavors, and uphold the ban on flavored tobacco products.”

“Flavors are proven starter products for youth and have no place on the market whatsoever,” said Bechara Choucair, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Officer for Kaiser Permanente. “To prevent another generation from becoming addicted for a lifetime with long-term health consequences, this life-saving legislation should be implemented without delay.”


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