California lawmakers tackling big tobacco as e-cigarette use rises among teens


California lawmakers are taking on big tobacco, hoping to pass legislation banning retail and vending machine sales of flavored tobacco products with Senate Bill 38.

“SB 38 sends a clear message to Big Tobacco, California will not stand idly by while another generation gets hooked on nicotine,” said Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo).

The proposed law comes as the CDC reports between 2017 and 2018, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 78 percent, while use by middle school students increased 43 percent.

Teens from across the state surrounded lawmakers at the announcement Wednesday, including Shasta County teen Taylor Barker.

“It is so common to vape now that it is a social norm, and if you don’t participate in it, you’re made fun of,” Barker said. “And keep in mind, this isn’t the burnouts and partiers, it’s also the star football players and AP students.”

E-cigarette giant, Juul Labs responded to the push Wednesday saying in part, the company believes flavors play a critical role in switching adult smokers away from traditional cigarettes.

A company spokesman said it’s already only selling flavored products online using an age verification system.

The company vows to work with California policy makers to reverse the trend in youth use.

On the topic of online sales, Sen. Hill is also proposing a law that treats online delivery of flavored tobacco the same as alcohol, where someone at least 21 years or older must sign for it.

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