For the third year in a row, an effort to ban flavored vaping products in Connecticut failed to garner enough support.
“We’re incredibly frustrated that the legislature can’t seem to get its priorities straight in a way that would protect children, like every Connecticut neighbor has already done,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, director Northeast Advocacy for the Tobacco Free Kids Campaign. They “continue to support the industry and the profits of the industry instead of protecting the children”.
The ban on flavors had early momentum in the General Assembly. The public health committee approved the measure in March after hearing hours of testimony.
A mother has urged lawmakers to ban flavors after watching her 10-year-old son become addicted to vaping. Advocates have warned of the dangers of e-cigarettes. And many members of the medical community, including the Connecticut Hospital Association, the Connecticut State Medical Society, the Central Connecticut Health District and the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, have thrown their support behind the bill.
“We had an agreement with the governor to go after flavored vaping this year. I think there was a real bipartisan consensus on the subject, and neighboring states have already taken that step,” said Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, co-chair of the public health committee that backed the proposal. “So it was very disappointing to be blocked again.”
Connecticut is one of the few states in the region that has not passed a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have banned the sale of flavored vaping products. Massachusetts has banned all flavored tobacco products, including flavored cigars, cigarettes, and vaping products.
The state has already attempted a ban twice. The proposal was raised in 2020 under Governor Ned Lamont’s budget, but did not go through. Lamont had recommended banning flavored vaping products and increasing the tax on all e-cigarette liquids.
Last year, a bill banning the sale of flavored cigarettes, tobacco products and e-cigarettes was watered down and then shelved. A version of the plan was also added to the State Budget Executor, but was dropped.
This year’s version only targeted the sale of flavored vaping products (no flavored cigarettes or cigars). But he still encountered opposition. E-cigarette makers, store owners and people who say vaping is an important alternative for those quitting smoking testified against the bill.
Additionally, some members of the quitting community did not support the bill because they felt it did not go far enough. Officials from the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network have asked lawmakers to expand the proposal to include all flavored tobacco products.
When the measure reached the Finance, Revenue and Bond Committee, it was amended to remove an outright ban. Instead, the version adopted by this committee would have restricted for almost three years the establishments that could sell flavored vaping products.
Committee members said that under the new proposal, petrol stations, convenience stores, parcel shops, supermarkets and other retailers would not be allowed to sell the products. Sales of flavored items were reportedly restricted to “adults-only tobacco” stores whose owners have dealer registration and only allow entry to people 21 and older.
Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, co-chair of the finance committee, expressed concern about people who rely on vaping products to quit smoking. He said he was also concerned that a ban would create a thriving “underground” market for vaping products.
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“Every time you ban something, it becomes more appealing,” Fonfara said. “And that’s the problem here: miners find it appealing. Now, with a growing and more robust underground market, they’re going to have access to it.
“Right now, you can buy flavored vaping products at thousands and thousands of places in Connecticut. …And that is, to a large extent, how miners get this product. the [Finance Committee] the proposal limits it to a fraction of that but still makes it accessible to adults.
The nearly three-year timeline would have allowed lawmakers to see what kind of effect limiting the sale of such items might have and to adapt if necessary, he added.
With time running out in a 12-week session, the bill was not called up for a vote in either house. Proponents promise to revisit the proposal next year.
In the meantime, promoters could push for the products to be banned locally, O’Flaherty said. Proponents have been lucky to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 by launching these efforts in cities and towns. The legislature then increased the age statewide.
“Connecticut children need to be protected from these products, just like our neighbors,” O’Flaherty said. “We can’t keep coming back and trying to put those protections in place for them. We’re going to keep pushing on that.
Jenna Carlesso is a reporter for The Connecticut Mirror (https://ctmirror.org/ ). Copyright 2022 © The Connecticut Mirror.