Californians should vote no on Prop. 31 and trust adults to make choices for themselves

California has a lot of problems and not all of them are directly taxpayer related. But, as noted in last week’s column, they all interconnect in one important way: Control. Our state’s government and its boosters think they know better than you. They know better how to spend your money. They know better how to use your land. They know what’s best for you. And, if you disagree, the nanny state will just make it illegal.

Look no further than Proposition 31 on this November’s ballot. It’s a referendum on Senate Bill 793, the state’s total ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products. SB 793 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor in 2020. It prohibits “a tobacco retailer, or any of the tobacco retailer’s agents or employees, from selling, offering for sale, or possessing with the intent to sell or offer for sale, a flavored tobacco product or a tobacco product flavor enhancer”and imposes a fine of $250 for each violation of the ban.

Although the law bans the sale of flavored tobacco products to all customers regardless of age, lawmakers named it the “Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act.” They claimed it was needed to stop underage tobacco use — because only kids, apparently, like flavor. To be sure, no one wants children smoking or vaping, but it’s already illegal in California to sell or give tobacco and vapor products to anyone under the age of 21. If prohibition worked, then we wouldn’t have a problem.

It’s also immensely hypocritical. At the same time California is lowering taxes on marijuana and debating bills in the Legislature to decriminalize psychedelic drugs, it is placing bans on menthol cigarettes, flavored smokeless tobacco, and other flavored nicotine vaping products that don’t even contain tobacco. Those non-tobacco vaping products, mind you, were determined by an “expert independent evidence review” published by England’s public health agency to be “95% safer” than smoking.

Plus, Californians are smart enough to make this decision for themselves. Our state already has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country. In fact, California has lower cigarette use among adults than any state other than Utah — where the state’s predominant religion frowns on smoking. Only the fear of God can get you to smoke less than we do in California.

Youth vaping was down 59% before the ban and youth smoking rates are at 1.9% — an all-time low.

Also, while the issue, as I stated, isn’t directly taxpayer related (and why HJTA hasn’t taken a formal position on the proposition), a legislative analysis of a ban on these products found that it would lead to “significant revenue losses” (revenue is government-speak for tax money) that will exceed $1 billion in the next four years. I’m sure the Legislature won’t take that sitting down and will try to find more “revenue” in higher taxes elsewhere.

It’s all about control and it’s why voters should just say no to Proposition 31.

Why no? Because this measure is a referendum, which is one of the direct democracy powers that Californians have had since 1911, along with the power of initiative and recall. A referendum empowers voters to approve or reject at the polls any act or section or part of any act of the Legislature.

On Proposition 31, California voters will be deciding whether to approve (“yes”) or reject (“no”) the law that bans flavored tobacco products.

I’ll be voting no – and I don’t even smoke.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.