Prop 31: The Ban on Flavored Vapes

By Jacqui McLean

This midterm election cycle, Proposition 31 was introduced to the ballot to be voted upon. Prop 31 “ would [prohibit] retail sale of certain flavored tobacco products,” in an attempt to mitigate the use of tobacco among teens. It would uphold the recently passed SB 793 which banned the sale of flavored tobacco. Tobacco products include cigarettes, electronic devices, chewable tobacco, and nicotine pouches. Since flavored tobacco has been a widely contested topic, it is no surprise that it has made an appearance on this year’s ballot. Essentially, this proposition is a veto referendum to the 2020 legislation that banned the sale of flavored tobacco products. A vote YES means that current legislation  (SB 793) will be upheld, banning flavored tobacco products and instituting fines for sellers who sell flavored products. A vote NO would repeal the current legislation and allow the sale of flavored tobacco products.  

This proposition is particularly interesting because it demonstrates the immense impact of money and interest groups on the political process. In an effort to oppose the proposition, big tobacco companies have spent over 22 million dollars, 4 times the amount that supporters have spent. For tobacco companies, this passing of this piece of legislation would be devastating to them monetarily. The largest donors against the proposed legislation are Reynolds Tobacco, Philip Morris, and the American Snuff Company. Contrastingly, the largest donors in support of the proposition are Micheal R. Bloomberg, Kaiser, and the American Cancer Society. 

Regardless of the outcome, there will be disappointment from these large spenders, as their views leave no room for compromise. Supporters believe the harmful effects of flavored tobacco, particularly on the youth, rationalize the ban. Many studies—connected to the large donor corporations— have demonstrated the rising issue of tobacco use in today’s youth. The tobacco companies however believe that the ban of flavored products not only infringes upon the free market, but also on the free will of adults who should be able to make decisions about their health and bodies themselves, as opposed to the government deciding for them. 

Despite such drastic views, it is clear that teen tobacco usage will continue to be a topic of discussion and an area with no clear solution. It is pretty much a consensus that teen tobacco usage is a problem; the solution, however, will remain highly contested.