It has been reported that the group has managed to collect and submit over 1 million petition signatures.
SB 793 by Senator Jerry Hill, bans the sale of flavoured tobacco products (including mint and menthol) across the state. The measure has faced significant opposition from the tobacco industry and retailers leading up to the final days of the 2019-20 Legislative Session, but was ultimately signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom last August.
Funded by R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA and ITG Brands, the group is said to consist of a group of big tobacco companies and small retailers and has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State to initiate the referendum process. The coalition needed 623,212 signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot, and if enough are collected, the flavoured tobacco ban would be placed on hold until voters have the opportunity to vote on it once again, possibly in 2022.
Paying for signatures
To the shock of many, the coalition was claimed to be paying professional signature gatherers over $10 per name, and it has now been reported that the group has managed to collect and submit over 1 million petition signatures. “The law goes too far and is unfair. Particularly since lawmakers exempted hookah, expensive cigars and flavored pipe tobacco,” said Beth Miller, spokeswoman for the California Coalition for Fairness.
“It will hurt small businesses and take jobs from licensed retailers who do sell tobacco products,” while still allowing for online sales, Miller said. “If the past is any indication, it will also lead to an underground market that could increase the access for minors.”
Senator Hill said that the coalition’s arguments are ridiculous. “The goal is to keep kids from starting to smoke,” Hill said. “What 15-year-old is going to buy a $12.50 cigar or pipe tobacco? That’s ridiculous.”
The California Coalition for Fairness confident SB 793 will be overturned
Meanwhile, the California Coalition for Fairness has expressed confidence that it will meet that number as counties verify signatures this month. “In the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, raging wildfires, heatwaves and power outages across the state, more than one million Californians signed petitions for the right to have their voice heard on an unfair law that benefits the wealthy and special interests while costing jobs and cutting funding for education and healthcare,” said the group.