March 22, 2021

Public Health Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Daugherty Abrams, Rep. Steinberg and Bridgeport NAACP Chapter President Rev. D. Stanley Lord Held Press Conference to Discuss Fiscal, Public Health Benefits of a Ban on the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products

HARTFORD, CT – Today, Public Health Committee Co-Chairs state Senator Mary Daugherty Abrams (D- Meriden, Middlefield, Rockfall, Middletown, Cheshire), state Representative Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) and Reverend D. Stanley Lord, Bridgeport Chapter President of the NAACP held a press conference to discuss the fiscal and public health benefits of enacting Senate Bill (SB) 326, which is a total ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Similar efforts have garnered attention across the country.

“We know the long-term public health and fiscal costs of doing nothing far outweigh the costs associated with banning these harmful products,” said Sen. Daugherty Abrams. “As we continue to face the hardships and loss brought on by the global pandemic, it should be clear to all that it is counterproductive to place a price on preserving and protecting the public’s health. After successfully passing Tobacco 21 in 2019, we must take the next step on reducing addictions to tobacco products for the health of our residents and communities.”

“It’s no wonder that the industry needs flavors to mask the harsh and destructive effects of their smoking and vaping products. They seduce the uninitiated into beginning what may become a lifelong addiction,” said Rep. Steinberg. “These are not beneficial products and the public health is best served by eliminating the temptation from the marketplace. That’s what we intend to do.”

“The tobacco industry has targeted Black and Brown communities with menthol flavored products for more than 50 years, and the results have been devastating,” said Rev. Lord. “And now some people are saying we should keep selling these products because the state might lose money? Or that a local gas station might lose some sales? How much longer will we trade the lives of our black and brown youth to keep older smokers addicted and pad the profits of corporate America, the tobacco industry, and the state’s budget? If Black lives matter, and I believe they do, then we must stop the predatory targeting of our people and all children with these products, and there’s no better time to do it.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking-related illness in the country costs, “more than $300 billion each year, including nearly $170 million for direct medical care for adults.” The CDC’s report continues, “More than $156 billion is lost in productivity, including $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure. The CDC also noted that state spending on tobacco prevention and control “does not meet CDC-recommended levels.” This is due to the billions of dollars from taxes placed on tobacco products and money from lawsuits against cigarette companies that is not applied to cessation and prevention. According to the CDC, not only do all states fall short of CDC-recommended levels of funding for prevention and cessation, Connecticut is the only state that gives no state funding for “prevention and quit-smoking programs.”

Action, such as enacting SB 326, is needed as tobacco companies continue the practice of using flavored products to attract kids and menthol cigarettes to attract the Black community. According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey, youth usage of electronic cigarettes continues to be a public health crisis with 3.6 million youth still using e-cigarettes. As reported in JAMA, 81% of youth who have ever used tobacco of any kind started with a flavored product. Regarding the tobacco industry’s targeting of 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. All of Connecticut’s neighbors (MA, RI, NY and NJ) have already banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Massachusetts, California, and over 100 cities nationwide have banned the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.

On March 5, SB 326 was passed out of the Public Health Committee by a 25-8 tally. If enacted, beginning October 1 of 2021, no distributor or dealer shall sell, offer for sale, display for sale or possess with intent to sell any flavored tobacco product or electronic nicotine delivery system. The penalty for such a violation shall be $300 and, for a second violation that occurs within 36 months of the date of the first violation $750. For a third violation within 36 months of the date of the first violation, the penalty shall be a civil penalty of $1000, suspension of the license of the distributor or dealer for not less than 30 days and possible revocation the distributor or dealer’s license. For a fourth violation within 36 months of the first violation, the commissioner shall revoke any license held by the distributor or dealer.