Calif. anti-smoking groups avoid tobacco ban bill, citing hit to bottom line

While a California bill eventually banning all tobacco sales might have brought an end to the product, it also meant the end of cash for anti-smoking advocate groups, too.

Anti-tobacco groups in California, who won a major victory in 2019 when they secured a ban on flavored tobacco products, are staying mum on a new bill that would have phased out tobacco sales in the state altogether.

For some, the prospect of losing key funding – courtesy of the state’s hefty tobacco tax – in pursuit of a tobacco-free Golden State proved to be unnecessarily expediting planned obsolescence (or, in this case, banned obsolescence) for the anti-smoking movement.


Driving the news: Assembly Bill 935 would have created a generation of Californians prohibited from ever legally purchasing tobacco products, making it more difficult for them to start smoking or vaping, however, the bill was shelved this week without even receiving a hearing, CalMatters reported.

  • The collective inaction by some of the major anti-smoking advocates came with major disagreements over whether reaching a coercive, tobacco-free future was their “endgame” and whether they should be pursuing a legislative move as their principal goal.
  • A key driver of the inaction? Per reports, backlash and feasibility of enforcement were starters. But perhaps the largest: potential cuts to programs they operate bankrolled by tobacco taxes.

Behind the moves: The notion of banning an upcoming generation from smoking or using tobacco products is still a new legislative concept.

  • New Zealand is the first country to adopt a similar approach, banning the sale of smoked tobacco products for anyone born after 2008.
  • The Massachusetts town of Brookline has also passed a ban on tobacco products, including vapes.
  • Lawmakers in Hawaii and Nevada have introduced sales phaseout proposals this year, but neither measure has received a hearing yet.

What they’re saying:

The decision to sit out another legislative fight reflects the advocates’ differing opinions on how to achieve their shared goal of eliminating deaths and disease caused by tobacco. Connolly, who introduced the bill, said he plans to revive the sales phaseout proposal next year, continuing to seek the support of anti-tobacco organizations that did not back the previous version.

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