Vt. lawmakers inch closer to passing flavored tobacco ban

Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 10:49 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s a sprint to the finish line for the 2023 legislative session. Some lawmakers are hoping to get bills, including a flavored tobacco ban, across the finish line. But with just weeks left in the session, will the proposal go up in smoke?

In the final weeks of the legislative session, advocates with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network served up scoops to lawmakers, urging them to pass more funding for prevention. They also want them to act on a proposal to ban menthol and flavored tobacco products, including vapes, something medical experts say is crucial to preventing problems later in life.

“It’s not a clear risk or outcome when you start smoking or vaping when you’re 16-17 years old. These are things that start to cause problems when you’re 40, 50, 60 years old,” said Dr. Prospero Gogo of the UVM Medical Center.

For three sessions in a row, lawmakers have been working on a ban on flavored tobacco.

“The health care cost as a result of smoking is huge. And the flavors only make people more addicted,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden County.

There are still questions as to whether people can still obtain flavored tobacco and vapes from out of state or online.

A similar ban has passed the House before though it’s unclear if it will pass this year.

Chair Theresa Wood says with a new Legislature this year some are not as inclined to ban menthol as they have in the past.

“There’s differing opinions about that at this point in time where in previous versions there was more universal support among the majority for that,” said Rep. Wood, D-Waterbury.

Wood adds time at the end of the session is short and her committee is working on other pressing public health issues. One seeks to stem fatal overdoses by exploring safe injection sites; another would create a facility for violent offenders with mental health challenges.

If the ban on flavored tobacco doesn’t pass, Lyons says she plans to make it a top priority next year.