Feb. 17, the Coalition for Tobacco Free Vermont, along with health experts, members of the House and Senate Social Equity Caucuses, the Center for Black Health and Equity, and Vermont youth urged the Vermont Legislature to pass S.24, legislation to eliminate the sale of all flavored tobacco products.
“It’s vital that Vermont lawmakers stand up to Big Tobacco and put the health of Vermont youth above all else,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, the sponsor of the legislation. “All flavored tobacco products are exceedingly enticing and dangerous to kids. Leaving them on the market isn’t an option. And menthol must be part of the equation. Leaving out particular communities where use is high because of aggressive marketing by the industry of menthol, should not fly in Vermont.”
The coalition stressed that it is not just a matter of public health, but also of health equity. They cited that candy, fruit and menthol-flavored tobacco products have made the tobacco industry billions by targeting youth, Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and LGBTQ populations in order to create new generations of addicts.
“Including menthol will be a vital part of eliminating the lure of tobacco to youth while helping to ensure health and racial equity,” said Tina Zuk of the American Heart Association. “Menthol is clearly a huge reason behind youth initiation with tobacco products because of its cooling effect and cough suppressant which makes it very attractive to youth both in e-cigarettes and tobacco.”
According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the percentage of high school e-cigarette users who reported using mint and menthol, increased from 42.3% in 2017 to 63.9% in 2019.
“We all know that sweet, candy-like flavored tobacco products increase the appeal to young, inexperienced smokers, with the data showing the highest use of menthol and other flavored tobacco products is amongst 12-17 year olds,” said L.E. Faricy, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist at UVMMC.
Tobacco use in Vermont costs $348 million in health care costs and more than $232 million in lost productivity every year, according to the coalition.
Massachusetts and California have passed legislation to restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and menthol combustibles. S.24 has been introduced to do the same and is currently before the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.