The Connecticut General Assembly will consider a bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products in an attempt to reduce addiction, which disproportionately affects young adults and people of color.
The ban would target vape products with fruity flavors that are popular with young people. The bill would also prevent the sale of menthol flavored products. The tobacco industry has historically targeted the marketing of menthol products to African Americans, who have the highest use of menthol cigarettes out of any racial group.
“For many years I have watched my community suffer from the long-standing results of having this habit of smoking that they can’t seem to break; and we watch them suffer and lose their lives,” NAACP Bridgeport Chapter President Rev. D. Stanley Lord said during a press conference on Monday. "Families lose loved one’s because they have targeted the Black and Brown community.”
Nearly 20% of high school students and 5% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes, according to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey. About 83% of e-cigarette users use flavored cartridges, including 85% of high school users and 74% of middle school users.
Tobacco use is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer and strokes, which are the three leading causes of death among African Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The bill advanced from the state’s public health committee to the full Legislature on March 5. Senate Committee Chair Mary Daugherty Abrams said during the press conference that she thinks that there is a “strong” chance that the bill passes through the legislature. If the bill is enacted, the ban would go into effect in October.
Bridgeport Representative Jonathan Steinberg, who co-chairs the public health committee, said he had hoped that the Trump administration would have banned the flavored products on a national level in September 2019, when concerns about the impact of the industry on young people was at a high.
Products purchased on the black market were under scrutiny for the possible cause of respiratory illnesses.
“I don’t think we here at the state of Connecticut can wait indefinitely for the federal government to take action,” Steinberg said. “So we’re following through, on what we promised we would do, which would be to end flavors which we view as an unfortunate temptation into the world of addiction.”