What didn’t get done in the first half of the biennium that you will work hardest to accomplish in this second year?
Happy New Year and thanks to VPR for offering this program! This is Jessica Brumsted, state legislator, representing Shelburne and St. George. I serve on the House Human Services Committee. Our committee, along with the full House, worked a great deal on the growing vaping epidemic among our young people. Those who start using e-cigarettes while in their teens are four times more likely to become traditional cigarette smokers than teenagers who do not. The increasing population health implications are clear and well-documented.
Last year, we began addressing this problem with a three-pronged approach; we passed three laws, each with a distinct purpose. One, we imposed a tax on e-cigarettes equal to the tax on traditional cigarettes; two, we banned the internet sale of all e-cigs and tobacco paraphernalia; and three, we raised the legal age for buying and using cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21.
As sometimes happens with legislation, we learned soon after these laws went into effect that problems remain. This past summer, an outbreak of severe pulmonary diseases proved to be linked to the use of e-cigarette products.
That reality clearly indicated that stronger policies are needed in the regulation and the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Research has shown that candy-flavored e-cigarettes are hooking our youth in ever increasing numbers. In particular, mint and menthol flavored tobacco products are making it more attractive for teens to start using and harder to quit. This year, my committee plans to work on legislation restricting the sale of all candy, fruit, mint and menthol flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes.
To this end, I am introducing legislation that will ban all flavored e-cigarettes and tobacco related products. We know that by reducing the number of people vaping and smoking we will also reduce health care costs for our state. Currently, Vermonters spend millions of dollars on direct medical costs for tobacco related illnesses, whether it is through increased health care premiums or tax dollars.
There is simply more work to be done if we want to prevent future generations from becoming addicted to these dangerous products.
Thanks to VPR for this opportunity to discuss one of the many issues we will be addressing during this legislative session.