The legislature’s finance committee stopped short of approving a ban on flavored vaping products in Connecticut Friday, choosing instead to temporarily restrict the retailers who can sell the products.
The bill, which came out of the Public Health Committee in a divided vote in March, aimed to reduce youth vaping by prohibiting the sale of any vaping flavor aside from tobacco and capping the nicotine content of available products at 35 mg/ml.
On Friday, Sen. John Fonfara, a Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s finance committee, led an effort to amend the bill, saying a similar ban had fostered an underground market for vaping products in Massachusetts.
“We could feel good about voting for a ban but the reality is that if people want these products they’re going to find them,” Fonfara said.
The tax-writing panel opted to scrap both the outright ban and bill’s nicotine cap and restrict the sale of flavored vaping products to adult-only tobacco stores. In addition to concerns about fostering an underground market, some lawmakers worried the original bill would reduce access to vaping products for cigarette smokers looking for cessation products. The law would sunset in 2026, giving lawmakers time to assess its efficacy, Fonfara said.
Supporters of the original bill objected to the change during the finance meeting.
“I know people who never smoked a cigarette in their life and then picked up a vape because it was mango-flavored,” Rep. Eleni Kavros DeGraw, D-Avon, said. “I hear the arguments about the black market, I hear the arguments that are being made and frankly, it’s just not enough to sway me that this is the right idea.”
During the meeting, Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Guilford Democrat who co-chairs the committee, described his own struggles with smoking cessation. Scanlon voted against Fonfara’s amendment but cast a vote in favor of the bill after it was amended. Scanlon said the change tried to strike a difficult balance.
“I think [Fonfara] is trying to find a way to thread the needle between … getting rid of a product that he, personally, thinks is very bad but keeping a mechanism intact for people that may not have the willpower or the ability to do what I did, which is to quit cold turkey,” Scanlon said.
The panel narrowly endorsed Fonfara’s amendment in 17 to 14 vote, with 20 lawmakers absent and not voting. The committee approved the modified bill 33 to 15 with 3 lawmakers missing the vote.