OPINION: General Assembly looking at legislation about ENDS

OPINION: General Assembly looking at legislation about ENDS

The General Assembly is again looking at legislation about ENDS — Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, that is. You know: Vaping.

Non-electronic nicotine delivery systems are more commonly known as cigarettes, cigars and pipes. ENDS, on the other hand, according to Uncle Sam, are devices that use an “e-liquid” that may or may not contain nicotine, as well as flavorings, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and other ingredients. A battery heats the liquid to create an aerosol that is inhaled.

The main concern is about vaping because it seems to be so popular among young people these days. And no wonder it’s popular among kids, since the makers produce this liquid, usually called “juice,” in such delightful flavors as Forbidden Frozen Apple, Custard’s Last Stand, Cotton Candy (“Recreates the carnival treat!”), Kiwi Apple Strawberry, Berry Berry Good, Banana Nut Bread (”Just like Mom used to make!), Fistful of Fruit, Blueberry Cobbler, Watermelon Wave (“A must.”), Rocket Man, Lemon Tart, Peanut Butter Cup, Milk Chocolate Macadamia, Peach Cobbler, Caramel Apple, Candy Crash, Blue Razz Lemonade, Gummi Bear, and Rip Tide (“With a hint of cool menthol.”)

Speaking of menthol, the bill would ban all this flavored juice along with flavored tobacco products, basically menthol cigarettes.

While it’s hard to object to a ban on tasty treats that seem designed specifically to get kids hooked on nicotine, a harmful and addictive substance (only around 2.7 percent of Connecticut high school students smoke tobacco, but around 27 percent vape), this bill would also ban the menthol cigarettes popular among adult smokers — especially African-American smokers, 85 percent of whom choose menthol cigarettes, compared to 29 percent of white smokers.

Now, there’s a twist. Should Black adult smokers be forced to give up their preferred brands, in order to protect children? As long as cigarettes in general remain legal, this is a valid question. Even state Rep. William A. Petit Jr. (R-Plainville) calls this part of the bill “an overreach.” And he’s a doctor.

Another twist: While Big Vapor has been targeting young people, Big Tobacco has long been pushing menthol cigarettes in Black communities. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids cites statements from both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris, recommending a focus on Salem, Newport and Kool (all menthol brands) for advertising directed at Black smokers.

Where am I going with this? Good question. Other good questions: Is vaping really a way to quit tobacco, or can it also be a steppingstone to smoking? And will banning menthol cigarettes just drive people to a black market? I don’t know. There are arguments on both sides.

More complications: Menthol cigarettes may be more addictive than cigarettes without menthol, according to a study by Yale University and UConn, with the biggest danger being to young smokers.

So, here we have one industry that wants kids to get hooked on vaping — which, even if they choose nicotine-free juice, exposes them to unknown hazards of inhaling chemicals like propylene glycol, which is an ingredient of antifreeze — and another industry that has already gotten adult Black smokers hooked on menthol cigarettes.

Neither of those things is good, but why not ban the tasty vape products and leave the menthol cigarettes alone. That is, unless we’re prepare to enact a prohibition on all tobacco sales.

Remember how well that turned out with alcohol?

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.

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