California passes statewide law prohibiting the sale of menthol and flavored tobacco products

The governor has signed the bill. Menthol cigarettes will soon disappear from shelves throughout California. – Photo: Mira Laing, SF Examiner

by African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council

California is poised to become the second state in the nation to prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine products, including menthol cigarettes. Following Massachusetts’ law, which went into effect June 1, 2020, California Senate Bill 793 was voted into law Monday, Aug. 24, and now awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

Though mentholated tobacco products kill the vast majority of the 45,000 Black people who die annually from tobacco induced diseases, the tobacco industry spent millions of dollars opposing the bill, claiming that taking menthol off the market would harm the Black community. They even tried to position the deadly Newports and menthol cigarettes that they have dumped in our communities for decades as part of Black culture.

This is a massive public health policy win for Black people across the country.

Dr. Weber fearlessly spoke real truth about the tobacco industry’s cynical and perverted use of racism in an attempt to keep Black smokers hooked.

The AATCLC wishes to thank our fellow tobacco control colleagues, Sen. Jerry Hill and all of our Black elected officials who stand up for our Black children and youth. Black smokers are not born with a Newport in their mouths, the tobacco industry puts it there. Break the cycle!

This is what strong Black leadership looks like 

California State Assembly Member and Chair of the California Black Legislative Caucus Dr. Shirley N. Weber shared some historical truths about the tobacco industry and sliced through “watermelon politics” during the hearing on SB 793.

“I too rise in support of SB 793 … I am insulted … insulted that the tobacco industry would make an effort to have us believe that mentholated cigarettes is a part of Black culture … Someone wants to save us and our children and finally focus on African Americans.”

Dr. Weber fearlessly spoke real truth about the tobacco industry’s cynical and perverted use of racism in an attempt to keep Black smokers hooked. It’s a testament to her leadership that she openly denounced the use of divisive tactics from some Black community leaders who have used their access and trusted positions to trick people into opposing policies that would benefit the health of the Black community but hurt the profits of the tobacco industry.

This year, Dr. Weber has fought to reinstate affirmative action and to make ethnic studies classes a graduation requirement for California public university students.

The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council (AATCLC), a collective of tobacco control experts dedicated to research, community collaboration and public engagement, is working to stop the 45,000 preventable deaths of African Americans due to tobacco related diseases. Find us at www.savingblacklives.org.