Cancer Advocates Call Assembly Member Adam Gray’s Attempt to Rein in Youth E-cigarette Epidemic a Sham; Latest Bill Introduced Reflects Influence from Tobacco Industry
American Cancer Society Policy Affiliate Urges State Lawmakers to Reject Amendments And Prioritize Previous Bills to Restrict the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products Including Candy-Flavored E-cigarettes and Menthol Cigarettes
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) calls AB 1639 as amended today by Assembly Member Adam Gray today a complete sham and says Big Tobacco is using intense lobbying and campaign contributions to lure lawmakers to pass a bill that will do little to curb the current youth e-cigarette epidemic raging in this state. The new bill is expected to be heard on Wednesday July 10 in the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee, which is chaired by Gray.
Statement by American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California Managing Director Jim Knox:
“Assembly Member Adam Gray’s amendments do little to stem the panic teen parents are experiencing as they desperately try to keep their kids away from e-cigarettes and a potential lifetime addiction to tobacco. New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this year shows e-cigarette use among high schoolers jumped an alarming 78% in the last year, with candy, fruit and menthol flavored tobacco products a key strategy to bait teens into tobacco use—essentially wiping out decades of progress in reducing youth consumption of tobacco.
“These amendments could easily be labeled the ‘Juul Market Share Protection Act.’ It is as if Juul executives wrote them to escape real accountability for the massive epidemic of teenage e-cigarette use that they deliberately helped fuel. Indeed, the amendments mirror the Vapor Technology Association’s “Flavored Tobacco Ban Alternative” that emerged as part of its opposition to earlier legislation introduced this session, which would have helped stopped the rise in youth use of e-cigarettes. Juul is listed as a Platinum Member of the VTA.
“We are concerned the focus on penalties on youth is the wrong approach. We think the burden should be on the tobacco companies that lure kids to a lifetime of addiction and retailers who sell to underage persons – not the kids who are victimized.
“Laws that penalize youth possession have been shown to be ineffective and merely shift the focus away from where it should be—cracking down on tobacco companies that target kids. Focusing on youth purchase shifts responsibility away from the tobacco companies that are producing these products designed to prey on kids and the retailers who are selling these products to kids.
“The latest legislative maneuverings at the California State Capitol only reflect the power of the tobacco industry, including Juul Labs, as it pours dirty money into the pockets of politicians. Tobacco giant Altria (formally Philip Morris U.S.A.) has a 35% ownership in Juul. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) says e-cigarette manufacturer Juul Labs is behind a nationwide youth e-cigarette epidemic:
Recently, a new type of e-cigarette has become increasingly popular among our nation’s youth due to its minimal exhaled aerosol, reduced odor, and small size, making it easy to conceal. One of the most commonly sold USB flash drive shaped e-cigarettes is JUUL, which experienced a 600% surge in sales during 2016-2017, giving it the greatest market share of any e-cigarette in the U.S. by the end of 2017.
A typical JUUL cartridge, or “pod,” contains about as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. These products also use nicotine salts, which allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation than the free-base nicotine that has traditionally been used in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. This is of particular concern for young people, because it could make it easier for them to initiate the use of nicotine through these products and also could make it easier to progress to regular e-cigarette use and nicotine dependence. However, despite these risks, approximately two-thirds of JUUL users aged 15-24 do not know that JUUL always contains nicotine.
Assembly Bill (AB) 739 and Senate Bill (SB) 38, introduced this year, would have restricted the sale of all flavored tobacco products statewide. Neither bill survived the session after Juul Labs launched a major lobbying campaign this year and poured campaign money into the pockets of lawmakers in an attempt to sway votes at the California Capitol. Big Tobacco isn’t just hoping to addict children and adults to its products, the industry is also trying to addict elected officials to tobacco money. It is reprehensible. We urge lawmakers to oppose this bill and focus instead on meaningful legislation to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic.
ACS CAN was a co-sponsor of both SB 38 and AB 739 to prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products. The Governmental Organization (GO) Committee chaired by Assembly Member Gray is a known obstacle to getting tobacco control policies passed. ACS CAN reported earlier this year that GO committee members have taken a total of $23,500 in political contributions from Juul in just the first quarter of this year (along with $89,300 in additional tobacco money from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which makes the No. 1 selling menthol cigarette in America).
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.