Hard work by vaping advocates helped kill flavor ban bills backed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in two state legislatures. In a year thought to be ripe for state-level flavor bans, so far only Hawaii’s legislature has passed a bill prohibiting vape flavors in 2022.
Even though the FDA may never authorize any flavored vape products, shutting down state and local flavor bans is important because the FDA could be tied up for years fighting legal challenges to their Marketing Denial Orders (MDOs).
Connecticut: pro-vaping experts helped turn the tide
As time ran out on the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2022 session, SB 367—the flavor ban bill that had passed two joint House-Senate committees—died without a final vote in either body. The legislative session ended May 4.
It was the fourth time since 2020 that Connecticut vaping advocates have helped fight off a flavor ban. Flavor prohibition was included in both the 2020 and 2021 state budgets, and a separate bill was also introduced last year.
“We’re incredibly frustrated that the legislature can’t seem to get their priorities in order in a way that would protect kids, the way all of Connecticut’s neighbors already have,” Tobacco Free Kids’ Kevin O’Flaherty told the CT Mirror. The four closest states to Connecticut—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey—all have flavored vape bans.
Tobacco-Free Kids lobbyists aren’t used to losing, and they don’t like it. O’Flaherty accused Connecticut politicians of “[continuing] to support industry and industry profits instead of protecting kids.” But another problem for the anti-vaping activists was a lack of unity. Some of the special interest anti-vaping groups were lukewarm about a bill that excluded menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
Testimony at a March hearing of the joint Public Health Committee from well-known academics, including Yale health economist Abigail Friedman (see video above), created doubt for some legislators. The author or co-author of several scientific studies showing that vaping restrictions increase smoking, Friedman made a credible and powerful witness.
Following that hearing, some state legislators seemed to agree with issues raised in testimony by Friedman and others. An amended version of the bill that would have allowed sales of flavored products in adult-only stores was deemed too much of a compromise for some of the anti groups to accept.
Colorado: Tobacco-Free Kids spent $180,000 – and lost
In Colorado the flavor ban bill HB 1064 passed the state House and made it through the first Senate committee hearing, but failed to get past the Senate Appropriations Committee, which rejected it Tuesday by a 5-2 vote.
The result was a massive victory for vaping advocates, who overcame more than 25 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Tobacco-Free Kids. According to the Colorado Sun, the Bloomberg-backed anti-vaping behemoth spent more than $180,000 through March promoting the ban it helped author. (Big tobacco companies also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against the bill.)
“Colorado rejecting the flavor ban is a signal for other jurisdictions to refocus public health efforts on what works—vaping,” American Vapor Manufacturers (AVM) President Amanda Wheeler said in a press release. “Nicotine vaping is the single most effective smoking cessation method ever devised. Lawmakers can learn from Colorado. Flavor bans won’t work, but promoting vape products does help adults quit smoking and keeps adults from relapsing to deadly cigarettes.”
Both CASAA and AVM issued calls to action in Colorado, giving thousands of vapers and vaping industry advocates the opportunity to register their opposition to the vape shop-killing bill. Additionally, as in Connecticut, prestigious vape-supporting academics signed up to testify at a House hearing packed with speakers both for and against.
Legislators heard strong evidence that flavor bans don’t work from University of Ottawa adjunct law professor David Sweanor, Drug Policy Alliance founder Ethan Nadelmann, and Dr. Michael Cummings of the Medical University of South Carolina, among others.
In the end, anti-vaping interests couldn’t muster enough support to pass the final committee and get the bill to the full Senate before the state’s legislative session ended. But no one should doubt that they’ll be back with a similar bill in the next session.