HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — The state is poised to ban all flavored tobacco products. On Monday, lawmakers held a virtual public hearing in which more than 100 people signed up to testify.
One of those who testified was a young teen who says kids like to “rip” vape a flavored liquid and will go to extreme lengths to get it.
Greer Levy, a student from Greenwich, says using flavored tobacco is a daily occurrence for teens.
“Licking a lollipop or even chewing a piece of gum has now turned into ripping or inhaling a vape or Juul.”
Levy is part of the Greenwich Outreach Club. She says vaping runs rampant in Greenwich High School. And yes, she’s tried it.
“Just once because a coughing storm erupted and I never wanted my body to feel like that again it was scary.”
The bill would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, not the possession. It’s illegal to purchase flavored tobacco products if you are under 21 in Connecticut. But some teens say older kids sell it on the bus, or they go to the corner store.
“They go in where they know the store owner won’t card them,” added Levy.
There are 1,200 convenience stores in our state. The bill also bans one of their popular sale items; menthol cigarettes. Responsible owners say there would be an estimated loss of $147 million in tax revenue to the state.
Nurul Alam, the owner of several Foodland stores says, “We can’t change their habits but we will be losing our losing our volume, our sales.”
But those in the minority community say they’re targeted with coupons like this so menthols are cheaper.
“The predatory marketing of these products should be stopped and recognized as a social injustice issue,” said Dr. Phillip Gardiner from the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council. The California-based group was formed by researchers and community activists.
23 state attorneys general including Connecticut’s are calling on the Food and Drug Administration to ban menthol cigarettes.
State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, the Democratic Chair of the legislature’s Public Health Committee says, “The cost to the state may be higher than revenues we are losing.”
A Trumbull mom testified on the virtual hearing and told lawmakers she agrees with the all-out ban.
“Kids don’t think anything of it. It’s horrible, believe me, and they’re gonna get it. They’re sneaky. Teens are sneaky,” remarked Barbara Rudini.
$440 million in tobacco tax revenues comes into the state every year. Many on the hearing asked lawmakers to create a lockbox so some of the money goes to addiction programs and doesn’t get swiped for use in the general fund.
That practice has been used in past administrations that took funds from big tobacco settlements to balance the state budget.