Study: Ban hasn’t stopped Californians from using flavored tobacco, menthols

California voters upheld the flavored tobacco ban last November, yet Golden State consumers are still clamoring for menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes, an independent study finds.

A new study shows that California’s ban on flavored tobacco and vapor products is failing, with Californians still consuming vast quantities  

Ten months into the ban, flavored tobacco and vapor products continue to make up a significant share of California’s market. 


The backstory: Three years ago the California Legislature passed Senate Bill 793, which banned retailers from selling flavored tobacco products. 

  • SB 793 didn’t take immediate effect, after tobacco firms mustered enough support to bring the law before the voters on the ballot last November. 
  • Voters upheld the law, confirming California’s prohibition on flavored tobacco products. 

The big picture: While the ban was implemented last December, a study from the WSPM Group found a large percentage of menthol products still in circulation despite their prohibition. 

  • The WSPM Group collected 15,000 discarded cigarette packs and 4,529 e-vapor discarded packages from May 1 through June 28 in 10 cities in California.
  • Menthol cigarettes still made up over 14 percent of California’s cigarette market following the ban.
  • So-called menthol “work-around” products with similar packaging that have non-menthol descriptors made up an additional seven percent of the market, combing for 21.1 percent in total. 
  • 27.6 percent of products collected by researchers were deemed non-domestic tobacco products intended for use outside the U.S. 
  • Study analysts also found that 45 percent of the products were not taxed by the State of California. 
  • For e-cigarettes, 97.9 percent of all packs collected were flavored products. 

City view: The California city with the leading number of flavored packs sampled containing menthol resided in Oakland.

  • Of smokes consumed by Oaklanders, 30.9 percent were sampled as menthol cigarette products. Another 11 percent of packs were deemed menthol work-around products, translating to a total of 41.9 percent of cigarette products being flavored.
  • The second-highest menthol-consuming city was Stockton, with 24.7 percent of smokes consumed containing either menthol or menthol work-around product.
  • Of tobacco products consumed in its local sample, 16.4 percent of tobacco products utilized by Fresno consumers were flavored either with menthol or were deemed menthol work-around products by researchers.
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