Health advocates, youth call on legislators to ban flavored tobacco

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This legislative session, health advocates and Vermont youth are looking to eliminate all flavored tobacco products in the state of Vermont, including e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.

“Flavors are the lure that make kids want to smoke and want to vape,” said Tina Zuk, Government Relations Director for the American Heart Association in Vermont.

Zuk said it’s the appealing flavors that are fueling the vaping epidemic among the nation’s youth. She said it’s important that lawmakers also remember menthol is included in those flavors.

“Kids often start with tobacco products with a menthol flavor,” she said. “It’s smooth, it eliminates the burn, it makes it easier to go down.”

In 2019, Vermont passed a package of Tobacco 21 laws which raised the age to purchase and smoke cigarettes to 21.It also created a tax on e-cigarettes, and banned the online sale of those products. While supporters applauded that work, they say more work needs to be done.

“This is a continuation of dialogue and an ongoing effort to ensure that access to addiction is prevented,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons.

Sen. Lyons is the lead sponsor of the bill. She said tobacco use in Vermont costs $348 million annually in healthcare costs. Health advocates also say young people and African Americans have been the main target of marketing.

“It makes me so mad and hurt to see tobacco ads everywhere,” said one Burlington high school sophomore. “The ads hide the harm it can cause you and the people you love.”

These communities also use tobacco products at a higher rate.

“They also die disproportionately from tobacco related diseases including heart attack,” said Dr. Phil Gardner.

Massachusetts is the only other state in the country to ban both flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.

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