Gavin Newsom File Photo

FILE PHOTO - (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)

Anti-tobacco groups celebrated a win last week when California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB-793, a law banning the sale of tobacco and nicotine products in flavors other than tobacco. By Jan. 1, all stores will need to have those products off shelves.

"I think the governor made a bold move to sign that legislation — banning sales of flavored products," said Bill Baldyga, board member at the Coalition for a Smoke Free Long Beach. "It’s so good for youth who would have become addicted to tobacco because without those flavors, it will be more difficult for big tobacco to get others addicted."

The ban includes menthol cigarettes, flavored e-cigarettes and vapes, e-juice, pods and cartridges, smokeless tobacco and flavored cigars and cigarillos.

Exceptions include hookah products, loose-leaf pipe tobacco and premium cigars cost at least $12 each. Those items will remain available to purchase at locations in Long Beach and throughout California. And while the bill doesn't make it illegal to possess flavored tobacco products, retailers or individuals caught selling them could be fined up to $250 per charge, according to the bill.

If Californians want to buy flavored products, they will have to cross state lines, or order it online from out-of-state retailers.

But there's still work to be done, according to Baldyga. The coalition is comprised of a group of resident and city volunteers that work alongside the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Tobacco Education Program (TEP). While some products won't be available when the bill goes into effect next year, the health risks imposed by tobacco use are still present.

"Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known to humans," he said. "That’s why it’s in cigarettes, and that's why it's important to reduce what kids have access to, because if they start young, the chances of it being harder to quit gets bigger as they get older."

The city's education program offers free presentations for schools and businesses on the health impacts of tobacco smoke, as well as provides free resources for people wanting to quit. 

Flavored tobacco products are still permitted sales in Long Beach and the state until Jan. 1. 

For more information, go to longbeach.gov/health, or call the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services Tobacco Education Program at 562-570-7950.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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