The measure led 64.8%-35.2% with 52.2% of precincts partially reporting, according to figures from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Proposition 31 was on the ballot because the tobacco industry-funded group, California Coalition for Fairness, conducted a signature-gathering drive to suspend SB 793 from going into effect and force a referendum on whether it should become law.
The group called SB 793 unfair and claimed 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.
The drive surpassed obtaining valid signatures from 623,212 registered voters — 5% of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2018 general election — the number needed to qualify it for ballot on the next statewide general election.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 793 into law Aug. 28, 2020, after it passed in the Senate by a 38-0 vote and Assembly by a 58-1 vote.
The bill 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.
Former Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, SB 793’s author, told City News Service voters should vote yes on Proposition 31 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 sale of tobacco products to people under 21 years old is banned by federal law.
The argument against Proposition 31 in the Official Voter Information Guide calls SB 793 “adult prohibition.”
“Prohibition has never worked — it didn’t work with alcohol or marijuana, and it won’t work now,” according to the argument signed by former California Department of Finance Director Michael Genest, Julian Canete, the president of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, and Tom Hudson, president of the California Taxpayer Protection Committee.
Passage of Proposition 31 would result in decreased state tobacco tax revenues ranging from tens of millions of dollars to around $100 million annually, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, which provides nonpartisan analyses of the state budget and other bills.
The campaign opposing Proposition 31 received $11.2 million in contributions from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and its affiliates and $10.9 million from Philip Morris USA Inc. and its affiliates, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
The campaign on behalf of Proposition 31 also $1.1 million from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.