Tackling Tobacco: October 2023 Legislative & Regulatory Roundup

Flavored tobacco bans remain center stage at the state and local levels.
tobacco sales at retail

NATIONAL REPORT — Tobacco legislation and regulation is constantly under review at the local, state and federal levels. In this monthly roundup, Convenience Store News highlights the latest proposals and approved changes happening across the United States.


Sacramento — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill which enforces the state flavor ban in a similar manner as underage sales are enforced; it becomes effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Sonoma County — The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco in unincorporated areas of the county. While California voters approved a law in 2022 that prohibited the sale of most flavored tobacco products, the county's ordinance further restricts the sales for 79 licensed tobacco retailers — or 23 percent of total tobacco retailers in Sonoma County. The measure goes into effect Dec. 7.


Honolulu — A bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products on Oʻahu was passed by the Honolulu City Council. However, if signed by its mayor, it won't immediately take effect. Only when Act 206, passed by state lawmakers in 2018, is overturned or suspended can the bill take effect. That law declared the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products and electronic smoking devices a "statewide concern," but allows exceptions for hookah, premium cigars and loose leaf tobacco. The law preempts and voids related county legislation, but there is interest in overturning it and allowing counties to regulate the sale of tobacco products again.


Evanston — The Evanston City Council voted 6-3 to introduce a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products in the city. It is the second time a comprehensive ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products within Evanston has been proposed. A vote on adopting the measure is slated for Nov. 13.


Falmouth — Falmouth is the latest municipality in the state to consider banning flavored tobacco products. The ordinance proposal included a mechanism for reporting noncompliance, as well as a fine system for compliance breaches. If approved, it would go into effect in March 2024. 


Benton Harbor — The City of Benton Harbor has called on its state officials to outlaw flavored tobacco product sales. The city commission states the sale of flavored tobacco and menthol products disproportionately impacts African Americans, urging state representatives to address it on a state level. The commission is also asking the state to repeal a section of the Tobacco Products Tax Act to allow local governments to make their own regulations on tobacco.


Rochester — Tobacco retailers caught selling to minors four times within a three-year period in Olmsted County will soon face a 30-day license suspension and a $1,000 fine. It's an increase from the current seven-day ban on tobacco sales for any licensed business found to sell to minors three or more times in a two-year period.