Is California About to Restrict Flavored Vaping?

Calilfornia Cannabis Business Licensing LawyersCalifornia has not been as quick to block flavored e-cigarette, tobacco or cannabis vape products as other states across the country. But that could all soon change.

Until now, companies like Juul Labs Inc., a San Francisco-based manufacturer of nicotine pods and vape pens, have managed to squash bills intended to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco throughout California. Jull Labs Inc. spent $600,000 last year alone, lobbying and supporting political campaigns aligned with their business goals.

Why Change Now
As vape products have risen in popularity, particularly flavored varieties appealing to young people, the country has also seen a spate of hospital admissions and deaths, all linked to vaping. Evidence has also shown that flavored vape products successfully lure teen users. So with a human toll already reaching 90, and a heightened awareness of a rising number of teens vaping cannabis and tobacco, the governor publicly announced his support to ban flavored vape products.

Another indication of a possible market shift is that Juul has also ceased selling flavored mint and mango pods in the U.S. If you need legal help with your vaping or cannabis business, our Los Angeles marijuana business lawyers can help.

Attracting Young Users
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that one in 10 middle-schoolers and one in four high-schoolers admitted using e-cigarettes.

Of those middle-school users, 49 percent reported using flavored products in 2018. While that number was higher at 67 percent in high-school tobacco users.

With usage levels so high, select Californian lawmakers sought tighter vaping regulation, but those moves set off strong opposition both from the broader vaping industry and tobacco companies, alike.

Bans and Legal Action
In 2019, after temporarily prohibiting flavored e-cigarettes, eight different states found themselves facing legal challenges. Similarly, several states also banned flavored cannabis product sales. So far this year, the National Conference of State Legislatures notes that of 184 vaping bills across 20 state legislatures, 47 include flavor restrictions.

In January, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban e-cigarette sales. While another 60 Californian cities and counties have followed, either limiting or banning flavored e-cigarette sales as well.

The State of California’s Response
Following a particularly bad summer for vaping-related illness, the executive order Governor Newsom issued in September, instructed state agencies to:

  • double down on California’s illicit vaping market;
  • explore alternative vape product tax strategies; and
  • establish a consumer awareness campaign shining a light on vaping risks.

When Governor Newsom unveiled his proposed 2020-2021 budget in January, he also confirmed his full support of Senate Bill 793, which would see California go a step further than the federal government. If approved, it would restrict all tobacco products featuring enhanced flavors, including mint, cotton candy, and fruit flavored vape pens, as well as tank-based products like menthol cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco and chewing tobacco.     

San Mateo Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill said, “This is affecting our youth… The gateway is flavored product, and we can’t leave it to the industry to police themselves, because they failed to do that.”

Implications
Currently, California legislature is yet to consider a bill that restricts flavored cannabis. But we can expect sizable push back from vaping companies within the cannabis industry, if this comes to pass.

Vaping companies throughout California responsibly called for tighter  vaping product regulation immediately after illicit vapes began causing illness across the country. With many cannabis businesses already struggling to compete with illicit sellers, vaping companies would much rather see tougher regulation enforced, before banning flavored vaping all together.

The tobacco industry too has a steeped interest in keeping flavored vaping sales open. They also have very deep pockets and are willing to spend it lobbying, which makes them quite a formidable player to watch.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The National Conference of State Legislatures
Senate Bill 793

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