Advocates want the legislature to expand a proposed ban on flavored vaping products to include flavored tobacco goods.

In a bid to curb vaping among young adults, Gov. Ned Lamont has moved to ban flavored e-cigarettes – including menthol – and cap the level of nicotine that vaping products sold in Connecticut may contain.

But anti-tobacco advocates say the proposal doesn’t go far enough.

Absent from the plan is a broader prohibition on flavored tobacco goods, including menthol cigarettes and fruit flavored cigars, that could become a bigger draw if the vaping ban goes into effect.

“Kids who are currently vaping, when you take away the flavors, a number of them are likely to switch to other flavored tobacco products,” said Jim Williams, government relations director for the American Heart Association in Connecticut. “Any flavor ban should cover all tobacco products, not just electronic cigarettes.”

Lamont rolled out his budget proposal for the 2020-21 fiscal year earlier this month. In it, he called for a prohibition on flavored vaping goods, an increase in the penalties imposed for the sale of tobacco or e-cigarettes to minors, and a requirement that schools put vaping prevention lessons in their health education curricula.

“We know the industry really uses flavors to hook young people. So if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right and get all the products in.”

Ruth Canovi
Advocacy Director, American Lung Association 

He also included a 50% wholesale tax on vaping liquid to match the taxes on other tobacco products and to discourage the practice. The wholesale tax is expected to bring in $600,000 during the first year. That amount factors in the loss of revenue from flavored vaping products, which would be pulled from store shelves if the budget is approved.

The governor also suggested a cap on the level of nicotine that vaping goods may contain, at 35 milligrams per milliliter.

Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, did not address questions about why flavored tobacco products were left out of the plan.

“Protecting Connecticut’s youth from the harms of tobacco use is a priority for Governor Lamont,” Reiss said. “While there is still work left to do, we look forward to partnering with stakeholders in the upcoming legislative sessions to see these priorities come to fruition.”

Anti-tobacco advocates said the governor’s vaping announcement was a good first step, but they want a ban on flavored tobacco to be part of the effort.

“It is important the proposal be strengthened to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including … menthol cigarettes, cigars, hookah and smokeless tobacco,” said Bryte Johnson, government relations director for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network in Connecticut. “This is critical if we want to ensure the legislation has a measurable health impact and truly protects kids from Big Tobacco’s continued targeting.”

Advocates say that if a ban on flavored vaping products succeeds, more young people may turn to flavored tobacco goods.

Officials with the American Lung Association in Connecticut shared those concerns.

“We know the industry really uses flavors to hook young people. So if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right and get all the products in,” Ruth Canovi, the group’s advocacy director, said. “The end goal is all products, all flavors.”

A partial ban on flavored vaping products recently took effect at the federal level. The Trump administration outlawed flavors in cartridge-based e-cigarettes, but it exempted menthol and tobacco flavors. It also excluded disposable vapes, those with an open-tank system, and their respective e-liquids, which come in a variety of flavors.

Cessation advocates have criticized Trump’s plan as not strict enough and have pushed for tougher policies at the state and municipal levels. Leaders in Connecticut’s public health department also called on lawmakers to bar the sale of all flavored tobacco goods, as Massachusetts did last year.

It is unclear how much money the state would lose if flavored tobacco products were outlawed. In 2018-19, Connecticut collected $335.2 million in cigarette tax revenue and $22.3 million from the tax on other tobacco items, such as cigars, cigarillos, and pipe and chewing tobacco. But the state does not break down revenue by flavored and non-flavored products.

Lamont’s proposal is now being considered by the legislature’s Public Health Committee. Advocates are encouraging the panel to support restrictions that go beyond vaping products. The committee is weighing a separate measure that would extend the ban to flavored tobacco products.

“Kids who are currently vaping, when you take away the flavors, a number of them are likely to switch to other flavored tobacco products.”

Jim Williams
Government Relations Director, American Heart Association 

Sen. Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, said he hopes to include items like menthol cigarettes in the final proposal. He also wants to halt the sale of tobacco and vaping items in pharmacies.

“It’s high time that we stop the pharmacies from selling these products and trying to normalize their uses for people who go in to get medications,” he said.

Rep. William Petit Jr., a ranking Republican on the health committee, said he still is gathering information on the use and prevalence of products like flavored cigars. Members would have to weigh the extra restrictions against the odds of passing a bill in a short legislative session.

“It seems to me it might cause more resistance,” Petit said.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

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4 Comments

  1. After the Chief of Choice Police controls whats available to us, bring on the marijuana to smoke, eat in cookies, brownies and all edible products. Bring on the CBD oils to cure all. After all, it’s totally safe. Better yet its a tax generator… Untrustworthy hypocrites…

  2. Ive come to the conclusion I will NEVER be left alone. Big tobacco doesnt produce flavored cigars to appeal to kids. They produce them because some of us like to mix it up and even those of us dedicated to cigar purity like a little coffee or vanilla every now and then. I willingly started this hobby and do not need to be regulated, I am not your property.

    Also, they’re going to DESTROY the pipe tobacco world by doing this. No stupid kid is sneaking expensive pipes and tobacco in to school to smoke his Captain Black Grape with his vape buddies, so they are protecting NOBODY. But there are thousands of consenting adults like myself who cant imagine a better end to a day than having a pipe or a cigar with friends or with a good book.

    Data finds cigars are too expensive for kids to want to use, and surgeon general studies show that the way adults use pipes and cigars on a whole has very little (re: next to zero) health impact.

    GO AWAY ALA. NOBODY WANTS YOU.

  3. What people don’t realize is that these anti-tobacco advocates want something tantamount to near prohibition of every smoking product except for the cancer causing cigarettes that remain on store shelves. Everything they do is incremental. They barred adults 18,19,20 from buying. When the illnesses broke out, they tried hard to push the narrative that it was pure nicotine that was causing the lung injuries, when it was people buying bootleg THC. When that did not work they urged the federal government to put out a ban. They got a partial flavor ban and they still aren’t satisfied, so the next move is to ban disposable e-cigs and clear the market of all flavored tobacco products.

    If these public health nazis really cared about protecting the “children” or even society as a whole, they would advocate for cigarettes and flavored alcohol (alcopops) to be taken off the market. Only, that’s impossible because the government makes too much tax money from the deaths and illnesses of other people while pretending to care for the innocent children. Let adults make adult choices. It should not the job of the government to intrude on the choices of anybody over the age of 18. This nanny like, paternalistic behavior has got to go.

    It is important to note that anti-tobacco advocates keep saying that tobacco/vape companies are targeting “children”. Are 18-20 year olds children? Before Tobacco21 they were adult consumers and technically they still are. 18-20 year olds are not children. These are citizens who are old enough to vote for and send their tax dollars to the same politicians who tell them they are not old enough to do a vice of their choice, they can sign contracts, serve in our military, sit on a jury, get married and be fully independent if they so choose. Even though it’s a moot point now with recent legislation, it’s important we note this distinction for future policies. It’s not fair to ban products that people willingly use at their own discretion because kids as young as middle school are simply “curious” about the product. You can’t ban curiousity and you can’t outlaw free will. Parents need to parent and stop expecting politicians to be surrogates because you can’t control your own children.

    1. Hi Matthew, we welcome your comments but please note that our guidelines require that comments be limited to 1,000 characters. We will not be able to approve comments that exceed that limit going forward.

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