Prop Debrief: Proposition 31

Proposition 31 was one of the seven propositions on this year’s midterm election ballot for the state of California. According to Ballotpedia, this proposition was petitioned by opponents of Senate Bill 793 (SB 793), a bill passed by the California State Legislature in 2020 to prohibit stores from selling flavored tobacco products and other tobacco enhancers.

As a student who is well-aware of the negative effects of flavored tobacco, I was quite surprised that a proposition like this one even made it past the “petition” stage. The tobacco industry has marketed itself to youth in recent years, leading to an increase in tobacco use amongst teenagers. According to the CDC, “in 2022, about 4 of every 100 middle school students (4.5%) and about 1 of every 6 high school students (16.5%) reported current use of a tobacco product.” And considering these numbers continue to rise each year, this proposition seems relatively ridiculous.

Despite this, the campaign “No on Prop 31—Californians Against Prohibition” argued that SB 793 hurt small businesses and blocks a form of necessary tax revenue. Surprisingly, it has even raised over $23 million in an attempt to garner support for repealing the bill and allowing for stores to continue selling various flavored tobacco products. It seems quite ironic that so much money went into these advertisements and campaigns instead of small businesses and government organizations.

Fortunately, the campaign fell short as Californians voted to uphold the state legislation by an overwhelming majority. As of Nov. 13, around 4.4 million registered voters in California (62.9%) voted YES on Prop 31, whereas only 2.6 (37.1%) million voted NO, keeping SB 793 intact, and preventing the sale of flavored tobacco.

It’s important to instill measures that will prevent teenagers from having easy access and exposure to such dangerous products. While many opponents of this bill have argued that preventing the sale of flavored tobacco takes away the free will of adults who use it, I believe it is more important to prioritize prevention and regulation. At the end of the day, a child’s life is more valuable than the prosperity of a business.