Flavored e-cigarettes are latest target of California lawmakers

California legislators plan to introduce a bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in retail stores and vending machines in an effort to curb a rise in e-cigarette use among teens, officials said Thursday.

Twenty-six of its cities and counties already have restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products, but California would be the first to implement a statewide ban, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Led by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, the six lawmakers plan to introduce the bill Monday.

“We must stop the appalling epidemic of e-cigarette use by youths,” Hill said in a statement. “Enticed by fruit, candy and other appealing flavors, high school and middle school students throughout the U.S. are vaping in record numbers. The surge has reversed the decline in underage use of all tobacco products.”

“We must stop the appalling epidemic of e-cigarette use by youths. Enticed by fruit, candy and other appealing flavors, high school and middle school students throughout the U.S. are vaping in record numbers. The surge has reversed the decline in underage use of all tobacco products.”

— California state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo

Juul, the San Francisco-based e-cigarette company, announced in May that it would stop selling fruit-flavored nicotine pods at stores and vape shops.

The company also reserves the right to resume selling the products if it believes stores will implement proper age-verification checks.

The company supports “reasonable regulation to restrict inappropriate flavors such as cotton candy and gummy bear that are clearly directed at children,” Juul spokesman Ted Kwong said.

“We look forward to working with the California legislature in the coming months,” he added. The bill would also require sellers of the products by mail, phone or online to verify the buyer's age.

A violation of the proposed ban would result in penalties ranging from $400 to $600 for the first incident and to up to $6,000 for a fifth in a five-year period.

The number of high school students who said they used e-cigarettes grew from 220,000 to 3 million between 2011 and 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Battery-powered e-cigarettes are more popular with teenagers, but have come under scrutiny for the way they are marketed toward younger kids.

The Food and Drug Administration announced earlier this month that it would pledge to ban menthol from regular cigarettes, ban flavored cigars and add restrictions for the sale of e-cigarettes.

"I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in the announcement.