May 20, 2021

Public Health Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Daugherty Abrams, Rep. Steinberg Hold Press Conference to Discuss Fiscal, Public Health Benefits of a Ban on the Sale of All Flavored Tobacco Products Being Included in Budget Negotiations

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 Dr. Sandra Carbonari from the American Academy of Pediatrics held a press conference to discuss the fiscal and public health benefits of including Senate Bill (SB) 326, which is a total ban on the sale of all flavored tobacco products, in budget negotiations. Similar efforts have garnered attention across the country.

“We’ve learned throughout the pandemic that it is necessary to invest in the health of our state and our state’s youth,” said Sen. Daugherty Abrams. “We know flavored tobacco products increase the likelihood of addiction to these products in young people, and the health risks associated with these products are costly and deadly. This legislation is the right intervention to protect the youth in our state from an addiction that can lead to expensive medical bills down the line.”

“We passed the Tobacco 21 bill to address the scourge of youth nicotine addiction. But we knew we’d be back to further that mission,” said Rep. Steinberg. “While we’d prefer to ban all flavors, including menthol cigarettes, banning vaping flavors does reduce those opportunities which might lead to addiction. Perhaps the Feds will finish the job next year, but we’re committed to doing what we can – now.”

“Pediatricians in Connecticut are alarmed by the steadily rising number of our young patients who are using e cigarettes,” said Dr. Carbonari “Flavored e-cigarettes, which are marketed to young adults and adolescents, have driven this epidemic. 97% of youth e e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month and 70% cite flavors as a reason for their use. Too many of our youth are inhaling these substances into their lungs.”

On March 5, SB 326 was passed out of the Public Health Committee by a 25-8 tally and on May 3 it passed out of the Finance Committee by a 35-14 tally. The bill has garnered bipartisan support in both committees. If enacted, Starting January 1, 2022, this bill prohibits e-cigarette dealers from selling, delivering, giving, or possessing with the intent to sell, electronic cigarettes and vapor products with a nicotine content greater than 35 milligrams per milliliter or flavoring agents other than tobacco.

The penalty for violating this law is as followed:

  • First violation
    • $600, if they fail to complete an online tobacco prevention education program within 30 days.
  • Second violation
    • $1,500
  • Third violation
    • $2,000, plus minimum 30-day license suspension
  • Fourth violation
    • $2,000, plus license revocation

The new law, if enacted, will also penalize employees for violating this law:

  • First violation
    • $400, if the employee fails to complete an online tobacco education program within 30 days
  • Second violation
    • $500

This legislation is needed as, 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 necessary 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.

During the public hearing on this legislation, Nancy Alderman, the president of Environment and Human Health Inc., said of the bill, “menthol cigarettes have now been banned in many countries and our neighboring state, Massachusetts, has also banned them. It would be important for human health to get menthol cigarettes banned in Connecticut. The Food and Drug Administration has found that menthol cigarettes likely pose a public health risk above that seen with nonmenthol cigarettes.”

The state’s attorney general, William Tong, said of SB 326, “ending the sale of flavored tobacco products will have an enormous impact in reducing the number of people who die or suffer debilitating illness from tobacco use, significantly reducing the number of young people who become addicted to tobacco products, and reversing the youth e-cigarette epidemic.”

Andrew L. Salner, MD FACR at Hartford Healthcare’s Cancer Institute said, “flavors are what makes these products so appealing to youth and are driving the e-cigarette epidemic. Given how popular flavored e-cigarettes are among youth, if retailers are still allowed to continue selling them, kids will find ways to obtain them. Entirely removing these products from the market is the only way to curb their use by kids and create a tobacco-free generation.”