Vt. lawmakers poised to ban flavored tobacco products, vapes
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers’ ongoing efforts to ban the sale of flavored vape products are taking on new life as more Vermonters are focused on public health.
Vermont has already tightened the sale of some tobacco products by raising the purchasing age to 21. But ask just about any teenager and they probably know someone who vapes. “My freshman year I came from a small school. Being introduced to a lot of people, I noticed an increase in that,” said Stephanie Talbott, a senior at Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg.
“Yeah, same thing. I came from a small private school but I’d say I started hearing about it like eighth grade that people in public school would,” added Bailey St. Louis, a CVU senior.
Lawmakers are once again working on a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products -- including vapes -- after the pandemic threw last year’s effort off the rails.
“From the 2018 retail tobacco audit we know that flavors are accessible to youth in Vermont,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
Sponsors say it’s aimed at improving health in the long run, and saving millions on health care. They also say it will address health inequities, because the data shows low-income Vermonters of color and young adults consume flavored vapes at the highest rates. “We think it’s an important bill for racial and social equity, in addition to the public health concerns that are embedded in the bill,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden County.
But what’s aimed at keeping Vermonters healthy could end up hurting some. Jordan Holstein, the owner of Sweet G’s Smoke Shop in Shelburne, says about 60% of his sales are vape products and 95% of them are flavored. He says there’s a double standard applied to vaping compared to Vermont’s robust alcohol industry and that many turn to vaping to get off cigarettes. “We have a ton of local breweries making sweet, sugary cereal-flavored beers and maple-flavored liquors, so it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Governor Scott has said he’s concerned about the impact of flavored tobacco products, but it’s not clear if he would sign this bill and has said he is waiting for the federal government to take action.
But lawmakers say they hope to build enough support and to pass it by mid-March or else the initiative may go up in smoke.
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