(WTNH) — If you have teens in the house, there is a good chance they have smoked cigarettes or vaped with a candy-flavored E-cigarette. In Connecticut, it is illegal to buy any tobacco product if you are under 21-years-old.

The Food and Drug Administration last year restricted some flavors, but left menthol-flavored and other disposable E-liquids on the shelves.

A decade ago, the government banned the sale of flavored cigarettes. The ban did not include E-cigarettes and cigars. The flavored products now have a new generation of kids hooked. Some state lawmakers want them banned.

Rep. Johnathan Steinberg, the Democratic Chair of the State Public Health Committee, says of flavored e-cigarettes, “They are only intended to tempt and entice young people and adults down a path where there is almost certainly to be addiction.”

Tobacco products come in many flavors. Gummy bear, cotton candy, peanut butter cup, you name it.
E-cigarettes and cigars are wrapped in colorful packaging.

Nichola Hall, a Bridgeport mom, says the packaging makes it difficult to tell what’s candy and what is real. “Kid-friendly products… as a mom it breaks my heart.”

The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids says research found:

  • 81% of youth who have ever used tobacco products initiated with a flavored product
  • 72.3% of youth tobacco users have used a flavored tobacco product in the past month
  • About half of all high school smokers use menthol cigarettes

Kevin O’Flaherty, the Advocacy Director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says, “Menthol is especially effective at doing this as it cools and numbs the throat while sweetening the taste.”

He says there are 15,000 flavors. Fruit and mint are most popular. The group also says minority communities are targeted in advertising, resulting in 45,000 deaths in the Black community every year related to tobacco.

Nichola Hall is also a member of Bridgeport’s chapter of the National Association of Colored People.

“Anything that helps people in my community to quit smoking, prevent kids in my community from every starting is worth doing.”

Lawmakers in the Public Health Committee will raise the bill idea at a meeting Wednesday. But not all members have seen the Democratic proposal or agree with it.

“I appreciate where my colleagues are coming from on this issue because, and as we’ve discussed in previous bipartisan working groups, use of these products among children has reached a crisis point,” said Rep. William A. Petit Jr. the Republican ranking member of the committee. “The entire committee has not yet weighed in on the proposal and specific language so I look forward to the upcoming discussion. We need to hear why they believe an outright ban of these products is preferable and/or more effective as public policy compared with other approaches such as more stringent marketing regulations, a prohibition of specific flavors, or even moving the flavored products out of convenience stores, to mention several of the alternatives that have been suggested.”

Deputy Senate Republican Leader Heather Somers a Republican from Groton, the Ranking Senator on the Public Health Committee, added, “We have seen bipartisan support in the past for legislation restricting access to vaping products, including flavor bans. The mutual goal is to protect young people across Connecticut and safeguard the public health. The details of the proposals offered by Democrats today were not shared with Republican leadership on the Public Health Committee in advance, but I do support a public debate on this issue. Everyone’s voice must be heard as we work together to better protect Connecticut residents and strengthen our public health policies.”

Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams, the other Chair of the Public Health Committee is hopeful her party’s leader is on board. “The Governor was very much in support of the bill (last year) and in fact included it in his public health bill. We are hoping that remains the same.”

The Public Health Committee meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 10 am. The meeting will be broadcast on CT-N and the General Assembly YouTube page found here.