The fate of whether to uphold a ban on the retail sale of flavored tobacco, will be decided by voters on Proposition 31.

A YES on prop 31 would continue the California law, created in 2020, that prohibits flavored tobacco including e-cigarettes and minty menthol from retail shops. According to the Official Voter Information Guide, 80% of kids who use tobacco begin with flavored products. 

One of the arguments used in the voting guide is that voting ‘yes’ “protects kids by ending the sale of candy-flavored tobacco,” It also claims that it would, “save lives and save taxpayers money by preventing tobacco related healthcare expenses.” 

However, there are voters like Talia Miguel, a student at PCC, who has different views.  

“Kids or younger people are gonna be smoking no matter what happens,” Miguel said. “ Making vaping itself more inaccessible for people just makes it harder for smokers to get off of it. I smoke cigarettes, but I vape to take the weight off a bit ‘cause it’s like better.”

The ban on flavored tobacco makes it harder for adults to attain these products. Adults who are legally allowed to smoke, but not allowed to buy certain products makes for an increase in criminal gangs as well as underground markets. According to the Tax Foundation, California has 43.4% of cigarette smuggling making it the second highest state after New York. Kids seeking supply will also be caught in the process.

“I’ve just been against the whole menthol ban, because while it sounds like a good idea for like stopping kids from getting it, in the long run, I feel it hurts the smokers that are trying to quit,” Miguel said. “Cause I mean, kids are gonna get that shit like no matter what like there’s nothing we’re gonna be able to do to stop kids from getting that.” 

The increase of gangs and underground markets go as far back as the last time prohibition heavily impacted the United States in the 1920s. A counter-argument for 31 is that it is “adult prohibition” and “prohibition never works.” In the 1920s, the nation saw an increase of crime, illegal smuggling, and the creation of speakeasies, a place where alcohol was sold illegally, after the ban on alcohol–which was lifted years later in 1933. 

Although the ban on flavored products has not caused a noticeable impact like the 1920 prohibition in the past two years, it is unclear how far people will go to obtain flavored tobacco and if it will become a greater issue if the proposition goes through.

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