FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 22, 2021
CONTACT: Mike Roth, 916.813.1554

Big Tobacco Trying to Overturn Life-Saving Bipartisan California Law that Protects Kids by Ending the Sale of Candy-Flavored Tobacco and E-Cigarettes Including Menthol Cigarettes

Broad Coalition of Elected Leaders, Public Health Advocates Urge All Californians to Vote YES and Stop Big Tobacco From Preying on California Kids

Sacramento, CA – For years, Big Tobacco has lobbied to allow California retailers to keep selling certain candy-flavored tobacco products. Now, Big Tobacco – after spending over $21 million and getting caught lying to voters – put a referendum on the ballot so their industry can keep hooking kids with candy-flavored tobacco. A coalition led by the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Parents Against Vaping e-Cigarettes, African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is joining California voters, parents, and community leaders in urging a “YES” vote to keep our kids safe and healthy from a potentially lifelong addiction to nicotine.

Voting “no” gives Big Tobacco a blank check to put kids in harm’s way, hooking them on a powerful hit of addictive nicotine, shrouded in candy-flavored deception.

“This is a battle between the people of California and Big Tobacco over the health, lives and future of our kids,” said Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Big Tobacco is going to use every deceptive trick in their playbook just so they can continue to market and profit from hooking young kids on their candy-flavored products. For decades, our strong coalition – including public health groups, social justice organizations, education and community leaders, parents, and voters across the state – has fought successfully against Big Tobacco’s attempts to prey on our kids. And we will be victorious once again in this fight to protect young people from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

“The stakes of this fight could not be higher,” said Meredith Berkman with Parents Against Vaping e-Cigarettes (PAVe). “Throughout this campaign to protect our young people from getting hooked on sugary-sweet e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes – tobacco companies will once again try to convince us their minty, menthol, and other candy-flavored tobacco products are not aimed directly at our kids. By voting to uphold California’s historic law ending the sale of flavored tobacco, we will help young people break free from tobacco, prevent more kids from ever becoming addicted and protect a generation from suffering a lifetime of disastrous health consequences.”

“Big Tobacco will do anything to keep our low-income and Black communities hooked on their deadly products. Now they are saying menthols are “our” cigarettes and if they are banned we’d be discriminating against the Black Community. Nothing could be further from the truth and it turns history upside down.” said Dr. Phil Gardiner, Co-Chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. “The truth is that the Tobacco Industry has spent decades pushing these minty products down our throats through greater advertising, promotions and cheaper prices. And while this predatory marketing continues to go on, they have downplayed the deadliness of their products – all to make a profit. Californians defeated Big Tobacco on the ballot in 2016, they continue to dismantle this industry’s power at the local level, and we know voters will stand up to this industry again to protect our kids and save lives.”

Big Tobacco is already using deceitful tactics in its effort to overturn California’s life-saving tobacco laws. In December, Inyo County election officials launched an investigation into potentially fraudulent signatures submitted by the industry.

In October 2020, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council called on California’s Attorney General and Secretary of State to investigate disturbing reports of possible criminal voter fraud after multiple signature gatherers were caught on tape lying about what the referendum would do. The tapes show petition circulators telling potential signers that Big Tobacco’s referendum would stop kids from buying flavored tobacco when the opposite is true.