Voters in California passed Proposition 31 with 63% of the vote. This will ban flavored tobacco products from being sold within the state and will go into effect when the election results are certified in the coming days. Manufacturers impacted by the ban have filed lawsuits to stop the ban, but what could this ban mean for small independent retailers?

National Retail Solutions (NRS) analyzed its data collected through point-of-sale systems operated by over 2,000 independent Convenience and Tobacco retailers in California to understand the potential impact to small businesses in the state.

CA Findings:

  • Menthol cigarettes make up about 22% of total cigarette sales. This is likely lower than the national average due to a similar ban already in place with local municipalities. Newport an R.J. Reynolds brand represents 32% of the menthol sales.
  • Much of the attention around the ban has been pointed to menthol cigarettes, but Cigars and Smokeless Tobacco will be facing quite an impact as well. In the last 90 days, approximately 47% of Cigar and 53% of Smokeless Tobacco dollar sales are from flavors.
  • In stores selling banned products the revenue comprised of cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco is about 13% of the stores total sales. With a significant portion of those products no longer allowed to be sold, it impacts about 4% of a retailer’s revenue.

It is tough to speculate what the overall impact will be in California. It almost goes without saying that each store will be impacted differently. Vape and tobacco shops will be hit the hardest. We can try to draw parallels to what happened in the 279 NRS Stores in Massachusetts after the flavor ban became law in June of 2020. The pandemic certainly played a role in the comparisons.

MA Findings:

  • Menthol cigarettes made up a higher percentage (approximately 40%) of cigarette sales
  • Cigarettes, Cigars, and Smokeless Tobacco at 21% of total sales were a bigger piece of the stores’ sales prior to the ban. About 9% of the store’s revenue was made up of the banned products
  • Store closures were NOT significantly elevated up to 6 months after the ban
  • In a same store analysis, total store revenue was up 8%, 2021 vs 2020 despite cigarette sales down -12% and total trips being down -1% in the same period. The following year (YTD 2022) trips are up 8% and total revenue is up 12%.
  • 3 months post ban (Jun-Aug 2020), compared to 3 months prior to ban Mar-May 2020)
  • -Total Cigarette dollar sales were down -23%
    -Non-menthol cigarettes saw a 37% increase in dollar sales
    -Despite gaining about 3 non-menthol share points, Newport dollar sales were down -77%
    -Marlboro’s total brand saw an increase by 23%

Independent merchants are often resilient and do what it takes to succeed. NRS real time scanner data can provide the earliest read on both short- and long-term impact. It will be interesting to track this impact moving forward. If you are interested in learning more about he NRS data set used in this analysis and how it can help your organization please reach out to Brandon Thurber, Director of Scan Data Insights and Media Measurement at or Suzy Silliman SVP Data Strategy and Sales at or visit our website