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CALIFORNIA TOBACCO CONTROL BRANCH

California Prohibits Retailers from Selling Flavored Tobacco Products

Attention Retailers:

Stronger Enforcement for California’s Flavored Tobacco Retail Law

Effective January 1, 2024, Assembly Bill (AB) 935 (Chapter 135, Statutes of 2023) strengthens the California flavored tobacco products retail law, Senate Bill (SB) 793​, by establishing the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) as the primary state enforcement agency, increases penalties for retailers who do not comply with the law, and  changes the definition of a retail location. ​

What is the law?

On November 8, 2022, California voters upheld the state law, SB 793, prohibiting 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, most flavored tobacco products including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, as well as tobacco product flavor enhancers in retail locations.

On October 7, 2023, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 935, strengthening the enforcement of the flavored tobacco retail law and broadening the definition of a retail location.

What products do the laws apply to?

The sale of these flavored tobacco products is eliminated:

  • Flavored e-cigarettes or vapes that deliver nicotine or another vaporized liquid, e-juice, pods, or cartridges
  • Menthol cigarettes
  • Flavored little cigars and cigarillos
  • Flavored smokeless tobacco products
  • Flavored blunt wraps
  • Flavored loose-leaf roll-your-own tobacco
  • Flavored tobacco rolling papers
  • Tobacco product flavor enhancers

The law does not apply to:

  • Flavored premium cigars with a wholesale price of $12 or more
  • Flavored loose-leaf pipe tobacco
  • Flavored shisha/hookah tobacco may only be sold in licensed stores that only allow people 21 or older on the premises at any time.

Licensed stores must also operate in accordance with all state or local laws relating to the sale of tobacco and consumption of tobacco on the premises (for hookah retailers that permit consumption of tobacco on the premises).

Local jurisdictions may have more restrictive laws. It is the retailer’s responsibility to know and comply with all federal, state, and local laws regarding the sale and distribution of tobacco products.​

 ​What has changed in the definition of a retail location?

The state law applies to a retail location inclusive of the following:

  • a building where tobacco products are sold at retail,
  • any vending machine, vehicle, mobile unit, booth, stand, or concession that conducts in-person sales of tobacco products directly to the public. (Health and Safety Code Section 104559.5 (a)(13)) 

Retailers in California are prohibited from possessing flavored tobacco products with the intent to sell, even if orders are placed online and picked up in person. ​

New penalties for retailers not in compliance with the law.

 An enforcing agency may assess civil penalties against any person or entity that violates the flavored tobacco law according to the schedule of civil penalties prescribed in paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) of Section 22958 of the Business and Professions Code, as follows:

  1. a civil penalty of four hundred dollars ($400) to six hundred dollars ($600) for the first violation;
  2. a civil penalty of nine hundred dollars ($900) to one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the second violation within a five-year period;
  3. a civil penalty of one thousand two hundred dollars ($1,200) to one thousand eight hundred dollars ($1,800) for a third violation within a five-year period;
  4. a civil penalty of three thousand dollars ($3,000) to four thousand dollars ($4,000) for a fourth violation within a five-year period;
  5. a civil penalty of five thousand dollars ($5,000) to six thousand dollars ($6,000) for a fifth violation within a five-year period.

Can my tobacco retail license be suspended or revoked for selling flavored tobacco products?

Yes. Upon the assessment of a civil penalty for the third, fourth, or fifth violation, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) shall then assess a civil penalty of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) and suspend or revoke a license issued pursuant to Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 22972) of Division 8.6 of the Business and Professions Code, in accordance with the schedule listed in paragraph (1) of subdivision(b) of Section 22958 of the Business and Professions Code.

Who do the penalties apply to?

The penalties apply to retailers, their agents or their employees who sell, offer for sale, or possess with intent to sell or offer for sale most flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes that deliver nicotine or other vaporized liquids and menthol cigarettes, as well as tobacco product flavor enhancers.

The law does not punish or criminalize anyone for purchasing, using, or possessing with the intent to use a flavored tobacco product or tobacco product flavor enhancer.

Enforcement questions or to report potential violations of the state flavored tobacco products retail law.

CDPH’s Office of Youth Tobacco Enforcement (OYTE) is the primary state enforcement agency. They can be reached by emailing OYTE@cdph.ca.gov. Visit their website for more information, Office of Youth Tobacco Enforcement.

Local jurisdictions may have their own flavored tobacco retail ordinances. For questions regarding local enforcement of tobacco laws, please contact your local county health department's tobacco control program.

​Legislation 

AB 935 (Connolly, Chapter 135, Statute of 2023)

Tobacco sales: flavored tobacco ban: provides for the enforcement of the flavored tobacco ban provisions in a manner similar to the STAKE Act, and, instead of an infraction, make the provisions of the flavored tobacco product retail ban punishable by civil penalties in a manner similar to the STAKE Act.

SB 793 (Hill, Chapter 34, Statute of 2020)

Flavored tobacco products: prohibits the sale of most flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes, as well as tobacco product flavor enhancers, at retail locations in California. 

Retailer Information and Resources 

Letter to Retailers from the CDPH Health Director and State Health Officer 2023 (PDF)​​​​​

The letter to retailers from CDPH Direct​or provides a summary to retailers, wholesalers and distributors, a reminder that California law prohibits the sale of most flavored tobacco products at the retail level, and references to additional materials to help retailers comply.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): California’s Flavored Tobacco Products Retail Law Updated January (PDF) ​​​

This document responds to questions retailers may have about changes to state flavored tobacco sales laws.​

California’s Flavored Tobacco Products Retail Law (Fact Sheet 2023 (PDF)

This document provides information on how the law affects retailers.​

Quitting Tobacco Resources 

Help others quit smoking and vaping tobacco products.

For free quit help:

  • Call 800-300-8086.
  • Text “I Can Quit” to 66819 to quit vapes, “Kick Tobacco” to 66819 to quit cigarettes
  • Chat with a Quit Coach now to quit tobacco.
  •  Visit KickitCA, One Pager Infographic 2022 (PDF) to get resources or download the mobile app.​

Learn more about the new law

  • For more information about the new law, go to UNDO.org.

Media Inquiries


Questions

For information on retail educational materials and signage:

California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program,

CTCPInbox @cdph.ca.gov

916-449-5500


For information about local tobacco retail licenses and ordinances:




For information about tobacco retail licensing, taxes, and fees:​

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration

General, Non-Confidential Tax Questions Form

1-800-400-7115 (select the “Cigarette and Tobacco Products" option).

For information about retail law enforcement and compliance:

California Department of Public Health, Food and Drug Branch

Office of Youth Tobacco Enforcement

916-650-6500

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