Advocates pushing for a ban on flavored tobacco products; Left out of Democrats budget alternative

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The legislative Democrats have put their alternative budget proposal on the table. But not everyone is pleased.

A bill to ban flavored tobacco products did not make the cut. That has advocates fuming.

Bryte Johnson from the American Cancer Society Action Network says his group was not happy. “We were very disappointed that the finance committee put the billions in profits that the tobacco industry sees over the health of our children.”

The American Cancer Society Action Network wants a ban on flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.

Bills in favor of a ban passed out of the Public Health Committee and the Committee on Children passed a measure to limit the age of customers at smoking stores. But the bans died in the proposed Democratic legislative budget package.

State Senator John Fonfara the Co-Chair of the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committee says the ban wasn’t the purview of his committee. “It doesn’t reflect on whether we should or shouldn’t ban. it’s simply a matter of recognizing that it is current law.”

Fonfara told reporters during an equity press conference this week it’s premature to predict what the legislature would do about a ban, which includes Menthol cigarettes. A product many say is targeted to the African American Community.

His committee did, however, account for marijuana revenues. A policy that has not been passed by the Legislature.

State Senator John Fonfara admitted the legalization of weed is pending, “If passed we are the finance committee and it’s our responsibility if it becomes law what the tax rate should be.”

Advocates say that is hypocrisy. And a potential loss of $200 million in tobacco tax revenue is the real reason.

Bryte Johnson said, “I think that that revenue is a bounty on the heads of our children. We’ve been in financial difficulties for over a decade this is the strongest we’ve been in that time if not now when?”

Other groups are upset they’re actually in the democratic budget proposal. The Motor Transport Association of Connecticut is against a new mileage tax saying in-state truckers would suffer the most.

And Connecticut Retail Merchants Association says a new digital tax will hurt the little guys.

Meantime, the Lamont Administration says it supports a ban on all flavored vapes and e-cigs in the final budget. The Action Network is pushing that to include menthol too.

“If we do nothing 56,000 kids will die prematurely from tobacco use. These products have to go,” added Johnson.

Budget negotiations will now begin. A final package is supposed to be agreed upon by June 9. It’s unclear whether that will happen.

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