State Senate approves landmark bill to restrict tobacco sales

June 2, 2016

Sacramento – Seeking to end the heavy marketing of tobacco industry products in stores frequented by minors, the California State Senate today passed SB 1400 by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) restricting tobacco sales to cigar shops.  The bill now heads to the state Assembly.

“This is a huge step forward in protecting California’s children because 90 percent of smokers start before they are age 18,” said Wieckowski, chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.  “By prohibiting the industry from targeting our state’s children with its pervasive marketing in stores frequented by our youth, we will make it harder for Big Tobacco to get another generation hooked on its addictive and deadly products.” 

Currently, retailers selling tobacco products must obtain a license from the state Board of Equalization.  Retail locations currently include convenience stores, grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, airports, hookah lounges and tobacco shops.  Children under 18 are not allowed in tobacco shops unless accompanied by a parent and are therefore not exposed to the barrage of advertising.  SB 1400 changes the definition for tobacco retail locations to mean a store that generates more than 60 percent of its gross revenues annually from the sale of tobacco products and paraphernalia.  If approved, the bill would take effect January 1, 2019. 

The tobacco industry’s marketing tactics were the focus of a Stanford University study that found convenience stores popular with adolescents displayed more than three times as many cigarette marketing materials in store windows, almost three times more advertising inside and twice as much shelf space to Newport, Camel and Marlboro, three brands that account for more than 80 percent of the cigarettes bought by minors.

Every year, roughly 40,000 Californians die from a tobacco-related illness.  A 2014 University of California, San Francisco study found that smoking-related, preventable diseases cost California $18 billion in direct healthcare costs and indirect costs from lost productivity due to illness and premature death.  

SB 1400 is supported by many health organizations, including the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association, the County Health Executives Association of California, the California Primary Care Association, the First 5 Association of California, the Common Sense Kids Action, the Regional Asthma Management & Prevention, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Dr. Stanton Glantz, a UCSF Professor of Medicine.   

Nationally, the Surgeon General projects that about 5.6 million American minors will die prematurely from smoking-related diseases.  

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and northeast Santa Clara County.