SACRAMENTO – California state officials have agreed to delay the effective date of what state lawmakers intended as a Jan. 1 ban on flavored tobacco products, after opponents led by tobacco companies said they filed enough signatures to put the new law to a statewide vote.
The secretary of state and attorney general’s offices won’t enforce the pending law until county clerks have enough time to verify that there are at least 623,000 valid signatures.
Inyo County’s top elections official, Kammi Foote, this week said she was referring the petition there to the county district attorney because her office found a high level of signatures that do not match county records.
Supporters of the law said that should throw the whole signature drive into question. The main group opposing the law, the California Coalition for Fairness, said in a statement that it takes the allegations seriously but turned in more than 1 million signatures, far more than enough to qualify for the ballot.
What supporters called one of the nation’s strongest such law would not make it a crime for people to possess flavored tobacco products, but bans retailers from selling them. Violators would face a $250 fine.
If enough signatures are valid, the measure will go before voters in the next statewide general election or special statewide election, likely in November 2022. If not, the law will take effect when the secretary of state certifies that the signature drive fell short.