Gummy bear, cotton candy, bubblegum, butterscotch, funnel cake. The ever expanding menu of e-cigarette flavors are clearly targeted at children, says Democratic Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost.
The Salt Lake City Democrat is running a bill, H.B. 274, this year that would bar most flavored tobacco products from retail and convenience shops, and restrict stores from discounting or using the products for promotional giveaways.
Before the introduction of flavored products to the market, Dailey-Provost said, tobacco use among teenagers in Utah was around 4 percent.
“We were winning the war. We were keeping kids away from becoming addicted to nicotine, and now we are at the precipice of losing that battle,” said Dailey-Provost on Thursday during a House floor debate.
Now, she said, teen tobacco use is closer to 12 percent.
The bill passed by a vote of 57-17, but faced some resistance from more conservative members, including Rep. Casey Snider, who worried it goes too far.
“I agree with what’s been said here on the floor relative to protecting the health, welfare and safety of our children, but this is also a bit of an overreach,” said Snider.
But other Republicans said it was an opportunity to draw a line early and pushback on tobacco companies trying to lure in younger customers.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams officially declared e-cigarette use an "epidemic" in an advisory last December, citing a 78 percent useage increase among high school students from 2017 to 2018.
“I’ve had four open-heart surgeries, three as a child, because my mom smoked when she was pregnant because she was told it was safe,” said Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, in support of the bill. “So I’ve had to fight this issue my entire life because … my parents were lied to, to think that these cigarettes were a safe thing to do.”
The bill is one of two this session targeting the teen vaping craze.
Lawmakers will soon consider another bill from Rep. Steven Eliason, H.B. 324, that would raise the age for purchasing or using tobacco in Utah from 19 to 21. A House committee narrowly approved Eliason’s legislation earlier this week.