BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Voters have less than two weeks until November 8th, and while many seats around the state are up for grabs, residents will also decide the fate of a number of ballot measures.
23ABC is taking an in-depth look at Proposition 31, which aims to take most flavored tobacco products off California shelves.
In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that banned menthol cigarettes and most flavored tobacco products - except for hookah, premium cigars and loose leaf tobacco.
Tobacco manufacturers have challenged that by funding a referendum to overturn the law, which put a pause on the ban going into effect, allowing retailers to continue selling these products.
A “yes” vote upholds the current law while a “no” vote would strike down the law and allow the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Supporters of Prop 31 say ending the sale of candy-flavored tobacco products protects kids from being lured into a lifelong addiction. They say 80% of kids who've used tobacco began with a flavored product. Proponents argue stopping the sale of menthol cigarettes will stop tobacco companies from targeting black communities, and that passing the measure will save lives and taxpayer money by preventing tobacco-related healthcare costs.
Opponents say Prop 31 is unnecessary because it's already illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under 21. They argue if the measure is passed, the state will lose over $1 billion in tax revenue over the next four years, which will impact vital government services. Additionally, they argue that banning the sale of flavored tobacco and menthol products will only increase criminal activity, saying gangs will continue smuggling the products, leading to more neighborhood crime. They also say educating youth about the dangers of smoking and tobacco use is better than prohibition.
The opposition language voters will see on their ballots argues that over $1 billion dollars in state tax revenue would be lost over four years, citing an Assembly Appropriations Report. 23ABC looked into that report, which actually states that figure could range from the high tens of millions of dollars, to low hundreds of millions annually