Earlier this month Proposition 31, which was approved by voters, went into effect for all California retailers of tobacco products. Under Proposition 31, the retail sale of menthol cigarettes and most flavored tobacco products is now prohibited in the state of California.
This new policy has a huge impact on the tobacco industry. Retailers of cigarettes and tobacco products such as grocery stores, liquor stores, smoke shops, vape shops, and numerous of other businesses can no longer sell menthol cigarettes or most flavored tobacco anymore.
Banned Products from California Proposition 31
According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, the following products below are no longer able to be sold in the state of California.
• Menthol cigarettes
• Electronic cigarettes or vaporizing devices that either contain or are sold with a flavored liquid or element regardless of whether it contains nicotine
• Flavored e-liquids, e-juices, or vape pods regardless of whether it contains nicotine
• Any component, part, or accessory of a tobacco products that either contains or is sold with a flavored constituent regardless of whether it contains nicotine
• Any flavored cigars, smokeless tobacco, loose-leaf roll-your-own tobacco, blunt wraps, or rolling papers.
• Tobacco product flavor enhancers
There are some flavored tobacco products that can still be sold in California if they meet certain requirements. For example, the California Proposition 31 law does not apply to flavored premium cigars that have a wholesale price of $12 or more, as well as flavored loose-leaf pipe tobacco. It also does not apply to flavored shisha or hookah tobacco as long as the retail store only admit persons 21 or older and are compliant with all state and local laws.
What Does this Mean for the Customer?
Unfortunately, if you live in California and enjoy flavored tobacco products, you will essentially be out of luck. Retailers are banned from selling these products so they will no longer be available for the foreseeable future. This also effects people who like rolling blunts and flavored joints or cigarettes. Popular blunt wrap flavors such as grape Swishers will also no longer be available. For an alternative, customers will have to start using traditional flavored tobacco products that do not have flavor additives.
Enforcement and Penalties for Businesses
California Proposition 31 law took effect earlier this month on December 21 and is already being enforced by local and state authorities. Being based out of Southern California, we have already seen firsthand the impact this law has had on businesses and local retailers. Many vape shops and smoke shops have empty shelves where their flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products use to be. As of now, any retailer or persons who is guilty of an infraction will be subject to a fine of $250 for each violation committed.
What Should Businesses Do
If you are a retailer of tobacco or e-cigarette products the first thing you want to do is get in compliance with the law and make sure all products available for sale do not violate any of the Prop 31 policies. Retailers with left over product that can no longer be sold are encouraged to reach out to their wholesalers for refunds. Distributors and wholesalers may request a refund of the excise tax on returned product only if they reported and paid the excise tax to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.
Many businesses and customers are still adjusting to this new California law. Some are happy about it while others are not. Overall, it is just something Californians will have to adapt and get use to. If you want to see more specifics about California Proposition 31 you can visit the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration website.