State weighing vaping options

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Gov. Phil Scott's office is working with the state Department of Health and legislators to explore whether Vermont should take steps similar to Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island on vaping, officials say.

All three states have recently instituted bans of some kind on the sale of vaping products. On Tuesday, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, responding to a spike in vaping-related deaths and illnesses, ordered a four-month statewide ban on the sale of flavored and unflavored vaping products in both retail stores and online, and on Wednesday, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order banning the sale of flavored electronic nicotine-delivery system (ENDS) products throughout the state.

On Sept. 15, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency executive order to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in the state.

As of Sept. 17, 530 cases of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette or vaping products have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 38 states and the United States Virgin Islands. Seven deaths have been confirmed in six states.

"The governor is concerned about the health impacts of vaping products, particularly on Vermont's youth," said Rebecca Kelley, communications director for Scott's office.

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Scott has signed multiple pieces of vaping-related legislation into law this year. Chief among them is S.86, known as Tobacco 21, which raises the minimum age to purchase tobacco products — including e-cigarettes — from 18 to 21 in the state, according to a media release from the Vermont Department of Health.

Another is H.26, which prohibits anyone from selling e-cigarettes, liquid containing nicotine, or other tobacco substitutes without a Vermont seller license — effectively prohibiting online sales of such products.

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A third piece of legislation, H.47, subjects e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to the same 92 percent tax already assessed on tobacco-related products, according to the DPH release.

Health officials, advocates and legislators acknowledge that the efforts of the industry to appeal to youth were a driver behind the move to action this year.

"There are more than 15,000 e-cigarette flavors," said Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine in the DPH release. "And 13 percent of youth e-cig users in Vermont said the primary reason they use them is that they are available in so many flavors. These products are little more than nicotine addiction on training wheels."

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E-cigarettes are especially popular among youth. National Youth Tobacco Survey 2018 data shows e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased "alarmingly" between 2017 and 2018, with over 3.6 million kids using e-cigarettes in 2018, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs. The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils, and other substances and additives.

On Tuesday, Juul Labs Inc., the nation's largest electronic cigarette maker, announced it will stop advertising its devices in the U.S. and replace its chief executive.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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