09 Jan The Supreme Court Upholds Cali’s Ban on Flavored Tobacco
By MARSHA MITCHELL, Senior Communications Director
This week, the Supreme Court upheld California’s ban on flavored tobacco products. The decision represents a significant development in the ongoing battle to regulate the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products, which mainly target young people.
The ban on flavored tobacco in California was initially passed in 2020 and aimed to address concerns about the increasing use of flavored e-cigarettes and other tobacco products among teenagers. The legislation specifically concentrated on flavored products, such as fruit, candy, and menthol flavors, which are believed to be appealing to younger individuals and potentially lead to nicotine addiction.
Of those between the ages of 12-17 years old who smoke, 57% smoke menthols. This is a direct result of the industry’s predatory marketing practices. Decades of predatory marketing practices have led to 86% of African American smokers using menthol-flavored tobacco. Today, African Americans suffer the highest rate of tobacco-related mortality of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.
“This industry has created generational harm in our families and neighbors for decades; it has put our community at even higher risk of COVID-19 due to pre-existing health conditions that smoking and vaping create, said Carlos Leon, Associate Director of Community Health Initiatives for Community Coalition. “Big tobacco morphed to entice a new and younger generation into addiction. This industry overwhelmingly advertises its products to Black and Brown people. It incentivizes the over-concentration of smoke shops and liquor stores by our schools, parks, and churches in South Central LA.”
Community Coalition works to help transform the social and economic conditions in South LA that foster addiction. As part of its “People First” platform, CoCo joined with the LA Families Against Flavored Tobacco Coalition in the campaign to “Ban Flavored Tobacco.” Together, many organizations mobilized their members and community residents to participate in hearings, rallies, and actions to end the racial profiling and predatory activity of large tobacco companies.
CoCo members gave public comment at City Hall regarding the predatory practices of Big Tobacco.
CoCo’s “Ban Flavored Tobacco” Campaign Timeline
2017–The South LA Poll highlights the over-concentration of smoke shops as an issue the community and CoCo youth wanted to address the issue.
2018–CoCo launches Nuisance Abatement campaign aimed at smoke shops and liquor stores selling flavored tobacco
2019–CoCo, with the support of Loyola Marymount University, creates a report that elevates the danger and over-concentration of tobacco shops.
2019–Ban of flavored tobacco/ Menthol in Los Angeles County (only part of South LA is covered by this ban)
2020–The ban on flavored tobacco throughout the state of CA passed (but was immediately challenged by the tobacco industry. It would be placed on the 2022 CA ballot for the voters to decide.)
2021–Ban of flavored tobacco/menthol in the City of LA ( LA Times Article)
2022–The flavored tobacco ban was placed on the CA ballot (Proposition 31) and won with overwhelming support.
2024—Ban upheld by the Supreme Court
Before the ban, flavored products spurred an epidemic of e-cigarette use among youth, with approximately 30% of Los Angeles County’s high school students experimenting with e-tobacco products. In 2020, 3.6 million young people across the nation said they used e-cigarettes frequently or daily, which is a sign of addiction. The data also showed that 83% of young e-cigarette users used flavored products.
“There are tobacco ads everywhere in our community, and they make it look like candy and all colorful. Our youth don’t always know that it’s a life sentence they’re jumping into. It’s that addictive,” says Community Coalition member Maria Rutledge, who has been part of CoCo’s “Ban Flavored Tobacco” campaign from the beginning.
According to the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study, 81% of youth and 86% of young adults who ever used tobacco—even once or twice in their lifetimes—reported that the first tobacco product they used was flavored. The FDA says 86% of African American smokers, 46% of Hispanic smokers, 39% of Asian smokers, and 29% of white smokers use menthol cigarettes.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban is a victory for public health advocates who argue that flavored tobacco products contribute to the rise in youth tobacco use and addiction. By restricting the availability of these products, the ban will reduce the accessibility of flavored tobacco to young people, ultimately curbing the rates of tobacco use and related health issues and deaths.