By Tyler Boronski
ESSEX, Vermont (WPTZ) — S.18, a bill related to prohibiting flavored tobacco and e-liquid products, including menthol, was passed by the Senate in Montpelier Thursday afternoon after its third reading.
Bobby Desseau, the manager of Valley Vape in Essex Junction, said the bill would eliminate 80% of the store’s inventory and put them at risk of closing up shop.
“My livelihood is at risk, my co-workers, my boss,” said Desseau. “We are a small shop — it’s really just the four of us here. This shop could absolutely go under with the loss of our juice sales.”
Erin Sigrist, the president of Vermont’s Retail and Grocers’ Association, said a joint fiscal report estimated the state will lose about $4 million dollars in tax revenues.
Her conversations with store owners told her it’s much more, though.
“We’re looking more like $20-25 million in our tax revenue,” said Sigrist.
According to the Vermont Tobacco Control Network, The Green Mountain State spends more than $400 million dollars on treating tobacco-related illnesses, translating to a tax burden of over $1,000 per household each year.
Rhonda Williams, from the Vermont Tobacco Control Network, said the biggest impact would be on young adults.
She said her organization surveyed college students to see in real time how often young people use these products.
“What we see in that data is 86% of young adults ages 12-25 are using flavored tobacco products,” said Williams. “That told us we need to continue to educate on how flavors entice youth to start.”
Williams is hopeful Vermont will see similar results to Massachusetts, which was the first state to put in a comprehensive ban in 2020.
“In their data, they’re seeing a reduction in youth tobacco use,” said Williams. “That’s really encouraging. That’s our vision for Vermont.”
While the bill was overwhelmingly passed by Senate Lawmakers, Sigrist said there will be a big hole they’ll need to figure out how to fill.
“With over $400 million in new programs already being considered in the legislature, we’re going to have some funds that will need to be raised,” said Sigrist.
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