Study shows usage is lower in California areas that have a full ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine found that residents of jurisdictions with a comprehensive sales ban have a 30% reduced odds of using flavored tobacco relative to those living in a jurisdiction without a ban. In contrast, lower use was not observed for residents of jurisdictions that enacted a partial sales ban.

Experts expect that recent passage of Prop 31, which upheld a 2020 state law to prohibit retail sales of certain flavored tobacco products, will lead to an even greater decline in use of flavored tobacco across the state.

In a paper published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, corresponding author David Timberlake, PhD, associate professor of population health and disease prevention with UCI’s Program in Public Health, showed that local sales bans of flavored tobacco over the last few years in California may be working.The burden of disease and death from tobacco use in the United States is overwhelmingly caused by smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products. On top of that burden is the danger of flavored tobacco products, which are particularly appealing to young people who are more likely to experiment with them and become regular users. This habit could lead to a lifetime of addiction and long-term health problems, which is why many jurisdictions throughout California are adopting their own tobacco regulatory policies to protect their communities.

“The drawback of having differing sales restrictions is a patchwork of local policies where someone who can’t buy flavored tobacco in their town can just cross a city line to buy it in a town that does allow it,” Timberlake said. “Our study is one of very few that study flavored tobacco use in banned jurisdictions compared to non-banned jurisdictions.”“Fortunately, California has taken a strong step forward by upholding Senate Bill (SB) 793 this past November to prohibit in-person retailers and vending machines from selling most flavored tobacco products,” said co-author, Denise Payán, PhD, UCI assistant professor of health, society, and behavior. “This will close the gap from the patchwork of local policies and eliminate most partial exemptions.”

Future research is needed to examine the impact of the new statewide policy ban on flavored tobacco products on individual behavior choices. The variability in the strength of associations of comprehensive and partial bans needs to be examined elsewhere to help influence future policy implementation across the country. Researchers state that these policies have the power to lessen and even stop tobacco use being the leading causes of preventable death and disease worldwide.

Additional co-authors include Julian Aviles, a statistician with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

This study was supported by the University of California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP; Award No. T31IP1678).

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