Governor Newsom Signs Landmark Bill, SB 793, to End the Retail Sale of Flavored Tobacco

November 6, 2020

What happened?

In response to decades of death and disease caused by the tobacco industry with its flavored tobacco products, Governor Newsom and California lawmakers answered the calls of Californians by passing Senate Bill (SB) 793. SB 793 prohibits the sale of flavored tobacco products, including vapes and menthol cigarettes. The law holds the tobacco retailers, or their employees, responsible for the sale of flavored tobacco products. Individuals who possess them with the intent to sell also violate the law. The law does not criminalize an individual for purchasing, using or possessing flavored tobacco products for personal use.

Starting January 1, 2021, retailers will be prohibited from selling these flavored tobacco products:1

  • Flavored e-cigarettes or vapes, e-juice, pods and cartridges
  • Menthol cigarettes
  • Flavored little cigars and cigarillos
  • Loose leaf roll-your-own tobacco
  • Smokeless tobacco
  • Flavored tobacco product enhancers

The law does not apply to: the sale of flavored shisha/hookah, premium cigars over $12, and loose leaf pipe tobacco.

Responding to the youth vaping epidemic

SB 793 comes in the wake of the 2019 EVALI outbreak that caused a serious and mysterious lung illness in mostly young people,2 and the youth vaping epidemic, in which youth vaping skyrocketed by 218% in the last two years among middle school students and by 125% among high school students.3,4

The tobacco industry hooks kids on vaping by using fun flavors that sparks curiosity and makes tobacco taste good. That puts teens at risk for a lifetime of nicotine addiction, health problems, and permanent brain changes. Sadly, 97% of kids who vape use flavors.5 SB 793 eliminates a huge access point for kids to get flavored tobacco products – retail stores. For more information on the teen vaping epidemic visit

Taking Back the Power: Menthol Cigarettes and African American / Black Communities

SB 793 protects Californians by correcting the mistake made in the 2009 federal law that got rid of flavored cigarettes. In 2009, Big Tobacco lobbied to keep menthol cigarettes out of the law. It’s estimated that, had menthol cigarettes been included in the law, up to 237,000 Black deaths would have been prevented by 2050.6 When Big Tobacco had the opportunity to save African American/Black lives, they fought to keep their deadly products on the market. SB 793 stands up to Big Tobacco and will save African American / Black lives in California.

The tobacco industry has been strategically killing African American/Black people for decades. Tobacco industry documents reveal aggressive targeting of the African American/Black community, with more tobacco ads in predominantly African American/Black neighborhoods.7 Even more alarming, studies have found cigarettes are cheaper in Black neighborhoods, particularly menthol cigarettes.8 The tobacco industry even handed out free packs of cigarettes in African American/Black neighborhoods.9 The tobacco industry’s aggressive targeting worked: 68% of African American adults who smoke cigarettes smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to only 19% of white adult who smoke cigarettes.10

For decades, tobacco companies worked hard to keep menthol cigarettes cheap, accessible and seemingly desirable for African American/Black communities, knowing that menthol cigarettes are deadly. Learn more at


SB 793 is especially vital now, during a time when optimal lung health is key. The California Department of Public Health, doctors, and health professionals recommend quitting all tobacco use because:

  • Smoking doubles your risk of developing respiratory infections.11
  • Smoking doubles your risk of getting sicker from COVID-19.12
  • Youth and young adult vaping is associated with 5-7 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19.13

Learn the facts about COVID-19 and smoking and vaping from Dr. Elisa Tong of UC Davis.

Quitting help: You don’t have to do it alone

  • Quit smoking menthol cigarettes, little cigars and cigarillos: The California Smokers’ Helpline offers free and personalized counseling support people who are ready to quit smoking or vaping, or to try again. The caring counselors at the Helpline can be reached at 1-800-NO-BUTTS or visit
  • Quit vaping:
    • The Helpline also helps people quit vaping, go to
    • Get text-message support for teens, Text DITCHJUUL to 88709.

References renameme

  1. SB-793 Flavored tobacco products.,under%2021%20years%20of%20age. Accessed August 28, 2020.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed February 25, 2020. Accessed August 28, 2020.
  3. Cullen KA, Gentzke AS, Sawdey MD, et al. e-Cigarette Use Among Youth in the United States, 2019 [published online ahead of print, 2019 Nov 5]. JAMA. 2019;322(21):2095-2103. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.18387
  4. Gentzke AS, Creamer M, Cullen KA, et al. Vital Signs: Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:157–164. DOI:
  5. Rostron BL, Cheng YC, Gardner LD, Ambrose BK. Prevalence and Reasons for Use of Flavored Cigars and ENDS among US Youth and Adults: Estimates from Wave 4 of the PATH Study, 2016-2017. Am J Health Behav. 2020;44(1):76-81. doi:10.5993/AJHB.44.1.8
  6. Levy DT, Pearson JL, Villanti AC, Blackman K, Vallone D, Abrams D. Modeling the future effects of a menthol ban on reduced smoking prevalence and deaths averted in the United States. Am J Public Health. 2011;101(7):1236-1240
  7. Lee JG, Henriksen L, Rose SW, Moreland-Russell S, Ribisl KM. A Systematic Review of Neighborhood Disparities in Point-of-Sale Tobacco Marketing. Am J Public Health. 2015;105(9):e8-e18. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302777 Resnick EA, Jackson KL, Barker DC, and Chaloupka FJ. Cigarette Pricing Differs by U.S. Neighborhoods – A BTG Research Brief. Chicago, IL: Bridging the Gap Program, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2012.
  8. Resnick EA, Jackson KL, Barker DC, and Chaloupka FJ. Cigarette Pricing Differs by U.S. Neighborhoods – A BTG Research Brief. Chicago, IL: Bridging the Gap Program, Health Policy Center, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2012.
  9. Public Health Law Center. Evans v. Lorillard: A Bittersweet Victory Against the Tobacco Industry. Accessed August 28, 2020.
  10. 2018 California Health Interview Survey
  11. Vardavas C, Nikitara K. COVID-19 and smoking: A systematic review of the evidence. Tobacco Induced Disease. 2020;18:20.
  12. Guan WJ, Ni ZY, Hu Y, et al. Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. 2020.
  13. Gaiha SM, Cheng J, Halpern-Felsher B. Association Between Youth Smoking, Electronic Cigarette Use, and Coronavirus Disease 2019. J Adolesc Heal. August 2020. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.07.002