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(Staff Photo by Pierce Singgih).
(Staff Photo by Pierce Singgih).
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Proposition 31 is a referendum on a clear case of government overreach from Sacramento.

A “Yes” vote upholds Senate Bill 793, which was signed into law by Gov. Gavin ɫ̳om in 2020. The law bans the sale of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, with distinctive flavorings.

Related endorsement: Vote no on Proposition 26

A “No” vote overturns the law. In our view, this is the correct vote and it’s no contest.

Banning the sale of flavored tobacco products is based on the premise that banning them is necessary to keep children from smoking tobacco and going down the path of addiction. This premise is nonsensical for the obvious reason that it’s already illegal for minors to purchase tobacco products.

Related endorsement: Vote yes on Proposition 28

If Sacramento followed this logic, it would impose bans on alcohol and cannabis products with pleasant flavorings.

After all, if they care about minors getting their hands on potentially dangerous substances, especially those with pleasant flavorings, why stop with tobacco products?

Related endorsement: Vote no on Proposition 29

As everyone knows, America’s experience with prohibiting substances isn’t wise or effective. All it does is drive people to the black market, increasing the potential harms of the underlying activity, or into finding other workarounds.

What SB 793 does in reality, then, is deprive adults of convenient access to flavored products, it harms retailers that sell such products, and it puts the state in the position of dictating what adults can or can’t do with their own bodies.

Related endorsement: Vote no on Proposition 30

That’s why such a ban is nonsensical in the case of alcohol, cannabis and, yes, tobacco products and other nicotine products.

Notably, the ban applies to menthol cigarettes. As University of Southern California law professor Jody Armour warned in an op-ed last year for these newspapers critical of menthol cigarette bans, prohibition of such cigarettes entails a disproportionate impact on Black smokers, who overwhelmingly prefer menthols.

Statewide: Our endorsements for all California-wide races on the 2022 ballot

“Many in support of menthol cigarette bills may not recall the impact of the War on Drugs, especially on Blacks,” wrote Armour. “It demonstrated how laws that invite therapeutic policing, and paternalistically protect people from their own desires, preferences, and wants only have one endgame: They pave the way to hell through good intentions by not respecting a citizen’s right to make adult choices.”

Indeed, it is deeply hypocritical for a state which has led on dismantling the racist War on Drugs would even consider a ban of this sort.

There’s also the deleterious impact of including vaping devices in this ban.

Around the world, smokers wanting to quit smoking cigarettes have turned to vaping to help them break the undeniably more harmful habit of smoking. Four years ago, England’s public health agency declared vaping was “95% safer” than smoking.

While proponents of banning flavors act like only children find fruit or candy-like flavors appealing, adults do, too. And for people looking to break smoking habits, flavors make it easier to make the switch.

From a public health perspective, it is utterly nonsensical to reduce the desirability of what for many is a life-saving smoking cessation tool.

To reiterate, the answer to how to vote on Prop. 31 is clear.

A “Yes” vote is a vote for paternalism, government overreach and the racist War on Drugs.

A “No” vote is a vote for respecting bodily autonomy, consumer freedom and harm reduction.

Vote “No” on Prop. 31.

Sourcing & Methodology

To help you make decisions about the numerous candidates, measures, propositions and other races on your ballot, our editorial board (made up of opinion writers and editors), makes recommendations every election. The process is completely separate from newsroom reporting and journalists. With the exception of our executive editor, the members of our editorial board are not news reporters or editors. 

Sal Rodriguez, the opinion editor for the Southern California ɫ̳ Group’s 11 newspapers, heads the editorial board and guides our stances on public policy and political matters.  

Every week, our team analyzes legislation, monitors political developments, interviews elected officials or policy advocates and writes editorials on the issues of the day. Unsigned editorials reflect the consensus of our editorial board, with the aim of offering arguments that are empirically sound and intellectually consistent.

We apply this same process when considering to endorse candidates.

As a practical matter, we are selective in which races we endorse in. We endorse on all statewide ballot measures, competitive congressional races, select races for the state legislature and select countywide and city elections.

We identify credible candidates through surveys and interviews, deliberate based on our editorial precedent and in light of contemporary realities, and issue endorsements accordingly.

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