While Big Tobacco Tries to Block New Law Protecting Kids from Tobacco, Major Milestone Achieved in Fight to Rid Store Shelves of Candy-, Fruit- and Menthol-flavored Tobacco Products

100 Cities and Counties Now Have Local Safeguards as E-cigarette Epidemic Rages On

October 5, 2020

California Tobacco Control Partners

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –  Either San Mateo or Mill Valley will become the 100th local entity in California to halt the sale of flavored tobacco products even as Big Tobacco pushes to maintain its grip on addicting the next generation. Both Bay Area cities are set to vote tonight, October 5, 2020, to rid store shelves of candy-, fruit- and menthol-flavored tobacco products. The cities are being applauded by major health organizations relieved to see that the tobacco industry’s latest shenanigans are not deterring local governments from protecting public health.

A new law signed by Gov. Newsom last month may be put on hold if Big Tobacco has its way and stops implementation by qualifying a referendum for the 2022 ballot that could undo Senate Bill 793, which will stop the sale of flavored tobacco in the state. A delay means kid-friendly flavored tobacco products will remain on store shelves in California, tempting tens of thousands of youth into a potential lifetime addiction that could prove lethal.

“That’s why it is critical that local cities and counties continue their efforts to adopt strong policies eliminating the sales of flavored tobacco products, similar to the bold actions expected to be taken by San Mateo and Mill Valley,” said American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California Managing Director Jim Knox.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly denounce the action taken by the tobacco industry to attempt to halt the implementation of legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products.

“The legislature and the governor overwhelmingly stood up to Big Tobacco, and in the face of a multi-million-dollar opposition campaign chose to protect kids from fruit and candy-flavored tobacco including menthol cigarettes when they passed SB 793,” said Lindsey Freitas, Regional Advocacy Director, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “We can’t allow these critical protections to be undone.”

On August 31, 2020, the tobacco industry submitted paperwork to refer the legislation to the ballot, meaning that if the industry collects enough signatures, it will be up to voters to decide whether to approve this law or not in November 2022.

“San Mateo and Mill Valley demonstrate how important it is to continue on the path to fight flavored tobacco as Big Tobacco continues to pursue profits at the expense of their customers. The passage of SB 793 should be viewed as a baseline, encouraging cities to adopt even stronger local policies to end the sale of flavored tobacco,” said American Heart Association Bay Area Board President Kenneth Mahaffey, M.D.

Youth are not the only targets of the industry. Big Tobacco also has a long history of targeting low-income, Black and Brown and LGBTQ+ communities, which has been instrumental in the disproportionate use of menthol products by these communities.

“As a result of this pernicious targeting, 85 percent of African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes leading to an undue burden of death and disease, including lung cancer, caused by tobacco use. Delaying implementation of SB 793 by two years would be a major setback for the progress we have made toward health equity through this legislation,” said Carol McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.

Across all tobacco products, what’s clear is that if the implementation of the California flavor law  is delayed by two years, tragic consequences will result from continued sale of tobacco products with flavorings that mask the harsh taste of an often-deadly product.

“The tobacco industry has a lot to gain by delaying and repealing this law, but we can continue to protect our communities through the adoption of local policies. Now is the time to push full steam ahead and show the tobacco industry that we will not stand for their deceptive tactics designed to endanger the health of our communities,” said Erica Costa, Advocacy Director, California, American Lung Association.


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

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is the leading advocacy organization working to reduce tobacco use and its deadly consequences in the United States and around the world. Through strategic communications and policy advocacy campaigns, we promote the adoption of proven solutions that are most effective at reducing tobacco use and save the most lives. For more information, visit

About the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council was formed in 2008, the AATCLC partners with community stakeholders, elected officials, and public health agencies to inform the national direction of tobacco control policy, practices, and priorities, as they affect the lives of Black American and African immigrant populations. The AATCLC has been at the forefront of decreasing youth access to mentholated and other flavored tobacco products by elevating the regulation of these products on the local, state, and national tobacco. For more information, visit

About the American Lung Association in California is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease through research, education and advocacy. The Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer, to improve the air we breathe, to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families, and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association in California or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-685-4872) or visit

About American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. The American Stroke Association is a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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