A group of state lawmakers and health advocates pressed Gov. Ned Lamont Wednesday to include language banning the sale of flavored vaping products in his proposals to the legislature this year.
Lamont has proposed the ban in the past and has signaled in recent weeks he still supports the effort, which proponents believe will protect the health of minors.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office says youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. E-cigarettes deliver massive doses of nicotine: for instance, each Juul pod delivers as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes, according to proponents.
Efforts to ban flavored vape products began in February of 2020, but were halted due to government shutdowns at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Proponents revived the ban last year, only to see it fall through the cracks late in the legislative session.
Lawmakers including Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, renewed their push Wednesday and claimed these flavored products are specifically targeted towards youth.
“The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates its a $2.5 million dollar revenue loss to the state per year, but we believe that that loss of revenue is well worth the savings we will have in protecting our children” Kushner said during the remote press conference.
Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy in the Northeast Region for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, agreed the flavored products were marketed specifically at children.
“Flavors hook kids,” he said, “It’s a simple statement, and it’s true.”
“The 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 85% of youth e-cigarette users use a flavored product,” O’Flaherty said.
Dr. Melanie S. Collins, director of the Cardiopulmonary Testing Laboratory, said over 2 million children in middle school and high school use e-cigarette products.
“The entire medical community at Conecticut Childrens, as well as the Connecticut Academy of Pediatrics, The Connecticut EMT Society, and the Connecticut Society of Head and Neck Nurses are advocating to remove flavors from vapes and e-cigarettes, which encourage children to try these harmful substances” she said.
During previous sessions, not everyone has been on board with the plan to ban the products and opponents have argued that prohibiting sales would result in consumers simply purchasing the flavors elsewhere. In written testimony submitted for a public hearing last year, Jonathan Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association, said the demand would ensure a market.
“The question the Public Health Committee must ask itself is whether it wants that market to be the legal, licensed, regulated, enforced and taxed system that exists today, or a dismantled system that no longer involves retailers checking IDs and ensuring only legal and regulated products are sold,” Shaer said.
However, in a press release, Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, said the availability of the products has driven an increase in underage use.
“Consumption of e-cigarettes by school-aged youth has skyrocketed in recent years, driven by the easy availability of favored nicotine products,” Cheeseman said. “Heavy doses of nicotine delivered by e-cigarette use pose risks for brain development and increase the likelihood of future addiction”
Rep. Corey Paris, D-Stamford, said the legislature should take the opportunity to improve the lives of children.
“I am one who has often said this on record, but I think that America does not value its children enough, and I don’t want to see Connecticut be one of the states that falls under that jurisdiction within our nation,” Paris said. “We can do whatever we can possibly do to keep harmful substances out of the hands of children.”