VT considers new tobacco restrictions

The+ban+on+flavored+tobacco+products+will+go+to+vote+in+either+late+April+or+mid-May.+UVM+offers+resources+to+students+trying+to+quit+nicotine+products%2C+with+information+available+at+Living+Well.%0A

Photo Illustration by STEPHAN TOLJAN)/THE VERMONT CYNIC

The ban on flavored tobacco products will go to vote in either late April or mid-May. UVM offers resources to students trying to quit nicotine products, with information available at Living Well.

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A controversial push to ban all flavored tobacco products in Vermont has been met with mixed reactions from students, health professionals and tobacco shops alike.

The bill, introduced Jan. 14, proposes to ban the sale or possession of flavored cigarettes, flavored electronic cigarettes and flavored substances that contain nicotine. It would also allow for the seizure and destruction of these tobacco products, according to the Vermont General Assembly.

Colby Curtis is an employee at Garcia’s, a local tobacco shop on Church Street.

“We definitely oppose the law,” Curtis said. “We sell tons of e-liquids, disposable devices, chewing tobacco and cigs. It would seriously impact our business.”

Sophomore Andrew Greenberg is a student who uses tobacco products.

“If you were addicted before, nothing’s going to change,” Greenberg said. “If you want to get it, you can still get it.”

Sophomore Haley Hess uses tobacco and is an advocate for the ban.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Hess said. “It’ll completely cut out younger users, like kids in middle school and high school.”

Dr. Prospero Gogo is an interventional cardiologist at the UVM Medical Center and an advocate for the ban.

“One in two Vermont high school students have used a vaping product in the last year, and one in three are using it regularly,” Dr. Gogo said. “We have a population wide experiment going on right now with these untested products.”

Gogo said a ban on flavored tobacco would apply mainly to retailers, not individuals.

“If you have a pod that’s banned in Vermont and you get caught with it by a law authority, they won’t write you a ticket for $250,”  he said. “The penalty is mostly to the sales of flavored tobacco products by retailers.”

The proposed ban follows the passage of the Tobacco 21 law in September 2019 that raised the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21.

Both Tobacco 21 and the proposed ban are initiatives to reduce the incidence of nicotine addiction among young people.

Michael Hill Jr. is a substance misuse prevention specialist at Living Well.

“If you cannot make the choice to turn down that substance when you want to, that is when you should reflect on why you can’t,” Hill said.

Kick the Habit is a new program at Living Well to help students cut back or quit nicotine or tobacco use.

“We are willing and open to talk with anyone who might be engaging with dip, betel nuts, tobacco, a mixture of marijuana, cannabis and tobacco,” Hill said. “It’s a non-shaming environment.”

The program is hosted every Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. and is meant to help students begin or continue their journey to quitting nicotine, often by connecting students to resources on campus or in the community, Hill said.

The fate of the bill will be decided in the Vermont Legislature in mid-April or early May.