January 19, 2021

Public Health Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Daugherty Abrams, Rep. Steinberg Joined by Nichola Hall of the Bridgeport NAACP and Kevin O’Flaherty of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to Announce Legislation Banning All Flavored Tobacco Products

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Public Health Committee Co-Chairs state Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D- Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire) and state Representative Johnathan Steinberg (D-Westport) were joined by Kevin O’Flaherty from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Nichola Hall from the Bridgeport NAACP to announce the Public Health Committee plans to introduce legislation banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

The proposed legislation will be similar in scope to 2020’s Senate Bill 76, which stated, “no distributor or dealer shall sell, offer for sale, display for sale or possess with intent to sell any flavored cigarette or flavored tobacco product.” Surrounding states have taken similar measures, as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have banned the sale of flavored tobacco products. Massachusetts, California, and over 100 cities nationwide have banned the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes. Sen. Daugherty Abrams said this legislation will protect children across the state from the predatory practice of luring children into tobacco use through flavored products.

“It is incredibly important that we address this public health crisis now,” Sen. Daugherty Abrams said. “Prior to the global pandemic, we were prepared to pass this legislation. Now as we continue to address COVID-19, it is even more timely and necessary that we address this crisis and protect our state’s young people from these harmful products. We must act this session, as action will save lives.”

Tobacco companies have long used flavored products to attract kids, starting with menthol cigarettes and now continuing with e-cigarettes. According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, youth usage of electronic cigarettes is still a public health crisis and has “increased dramatically” from 2011 with 3.6 million youth still using e-cigarettes. Flavors are a big reason why. As reported in JAMA, 81% of youth who have ever used tobacco of any kind started with a flavored product. Additionally, according to the survey, more than eight out of 10 youth e-cigarette users reported using the flavored products. Rep. Steinberg said it is imperative to the well-being of our state’s youth to ban flavored tobacco products.

“The pandemic has reminded us that the public health can be quite fragile, requiring proactive efforts to protect our citizens,” said Rep. Steinberg. “It’s time that we act to end the sale of all tobacco flavors, which can prove dangerous to one’s health as well as potentially leading young people on the path to addiction.”

Addiction comes with dire health consequences. According to the Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth, the aerosol users inhale and exhale from these flavored tobacco products can “potentially expose both themselves and bystanders to other harmful substances, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports youth usage of e-cigarettes can make these individuals “more likely,” to smoke cigarettes in the future.

“For decades, the tobacco industry has been using flavored products to hook kids into addiction,” said Kevin O’Flaherty, Director of Advocacy for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “First with menthol cigarettes, flavored chew and cigars; now most recently with over 15,000 different flavors of e-cigarettes. 95% of all tobacco users started before they turned 21, and 80% of kids who have ever used tobacco started with a flavored product. Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey have banned the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes and Massachusetts has gone further, banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and flavored smokeless tobacco. It’s time for Connecticut to protect our kids from these predatory products and these insidious flavors.”

The tobacco industry has utilized menthol directly to target the Black Community. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 85% of Black smokers use menthol tobacco products compared to the less than 10% that did in the 1950s. Additionally, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death among Black Americans, claiming 45,000 lives per year, per the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Nichola Hall, of the Bridgeport NAACP, said this sobering data requires immediate action.

“How many more black lives should the tobacco companies take from us? The loss of one life is devastating but losing 45,000 Black American lives per year should have everyone committed to making an immediate change,” said Hall. “Most importantly, these deaths are preventable. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids states since the 1950’s Black smoker’s use of menthol tobacco products increased from 10% to 85%; statistics do not lie; but the tobacco companies do. They strategically and successfully target our young people with menthol cigarettes, which they know are easier to start and harder to quit. It’s time for Connecticut to stop the sales of these flavored products, and to pull up the ladder of addiction that has destroyed lives, families, and our community for far too long.”

The Public Health Committee will raise this concept at their meeting on Wednesday, January 20 at 10 am. The meeting will be broadcast here.