At the end of 2022, California became the second state in the country to ban the sale of a broad range of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, cigarillos and e-cigarettes. The ban was implemented after Californians voted to uphold SB 79, a 2020 law. Tobacco policy advocates cited the positive impact on preventing youth from becoming addicted and ultimately decreasing illness and death.
Michael Seilback, the assistant vice president of state policy for the American Lung Association commented, “This law will protect millions of California youth from lifetime addiction and potential death from tobacco products and will encourage many people who use these products to quit.”
The ban on menthol is a victory for advocates that have shared extensive examples of tobacco companies engaging in predatory marketing to get Black communities hooked on menthol cigarettes. One tactic employed was targeting influencers in Black communities and providing them with free samples to build the market. In addition, the companies also sponsored events like the Kool Jazz Festival.
These practices prompted the Food and Drug Administration to propose a ban on menthol cigarettes in 2022. The agency specifically noted that the move would save the lives of 92,000 to 238,000 Black Americans.
Along with the California ban, a number of other states now have proposed similar legislation to ban flavors, including menthol.