A man vaping
A man vaping with an e-cigarette. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

An attempt to overturn a ban on the sale of most flavored tobacco products has qualified for the November 2022 ballot, acting Secretary of State James Schwab announced.

The referendum needed valid signatures from 623,212 registered voters – 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2018 general election – to qualify for the next statewide general election.

A referendum can qualify via random sampling of petition signatures if the sampling projects a number of valid signatures greater than 110% of the required number.

The referendum needed more than 685,534 projected valid signatures to qualify by random sampling. It exceeded that threshold Friday, Schwab said.

SB 793 prohibits store sales of flavored e-cigarettes and other e-devices, menthol cigarettes, non-premium flavored cigars and cigarillos, and other flavored smokable, vapable and smokeless tobacco products, with the exception of shisha tobacco used in hookahs, loose-leaf pipe tobacco and premium cigars costing $12 or more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill in to law Aug. 28 after it passed in the Senate by a 38-0 vote and Assembly by a 58-1 vote.

The California Coalition for Fairness, the tobacco industry-funded group which conducted the signature-gathering drive for the referendum, calls SB 793 unfair and claims it “goes too far.”

“We agree that youth should never have access to any tobacco products, but this can be achieved without imposing a total prohibition on products that millions of adults choose to use,” according to the coalition.

Former Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, SB 793’s author, told City News Service that voters should vote yes to affirm SB 793 “because it’s consistent with our values of promoting good health and protecting our youth from the deceitful, manipulative and greedy tobacco industry which kills thousands a year.”

“Voting yes on the referendum will stop the horrendous destructive increase of youth addiction to tobacco and prevent the associated deaths,” Hill said.

“We know the average age youth begin smoking is 13 years and over 80% start by smoking a flavored tobacco product.  Big Tobacco is addicting and killing a new generation on flavored tobacco.  Californians do not want that to continue. Their yes vote will stop that.”

The California Coalition for Fairness has received major funding from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and its affiliates, cigarette-maker Philip Morris USA and its affiliates and ITG Brands which markets and sells multiple cigarette and cigar brands and sells blu eCigs, according to the coalition.