A bill has been introduced in the House to ban internet sales of e-cigarettes or the nicotine-containing liquid associated with what are commonly called Juuls.
The bill was introduced Tuesday and referred to the House Committee on Human Services.
The introduction of the bill explains its purpose is to prevent “anyone from selling electronic cigarettes, liquids containing nicotine or otherwise intended for use with an electronic cigarette or tobacco paraphernalia in Vermont unless that person is a licensed wholesale dealer or purchased the items from a licensed wholesale dealer. It would also prohibit shipping these items to anyone in Vermont other than a licensed wholesale dealer or retailer.”
Rep. George Till, D-Jericho, said the bill was one of several he was introducing to keep e-cigarettes away from Vermonters younger than 21.
Another bill that Till introduced during the current session would increase the age for purchasing and possessing tobacco, tobacco substitutes and tobacco paraphernalia from 18 to 21.
Prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes over the internet is one way to help keep them out of the hands of those who would be too young to buy them at a brick-and-mortar store, Till said.
“We’ve had such an explosion of the utilization of these e-cigarettes that it has completely endangered 50 years of progress on reducing tobacco utilization because your brain does not care whether you became addicted to nicotine from electronic cigarettes or traditional tobacco, you need that nicotine,” Till said.
According to Till, there are 10,000 kids in Vermont using tobacco who could die prematurely because of their nicotine use.
Sarah Cosgrove, respiratory therapist for the Community Health Improvement department at Rutland Regional Medical Center, said she was very concerned that young people were lured into using e-cigarettes because they are flavored to taste like candy or other appealing flavors.
While Cosgrove said she hadn’t read the proposed legislation, she praised the Vermont Legislature for trying to take action.
“I love the great state of Vermont because we trudge forward no matter what. I have to say that I think these are fantastic efforts that need to be put in place. This is the protection of our youth,” she said.
Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington, who introduced the bill along with Till, said his position on the South Burlington School Board gave him perspective of the prevalence of e-cigarette use among teenagers.
“I was speaking with the principal of our high school and he was saying from his knowledge that really where kids are getting the Juul products is not going to a local convenience store or getting somebody older to buy it, although that probably happens, too. At the convenience stores, they’re actually very good about checking ID so a lot of kids are going on the internet,” he said.
Till has been working on the issue for some time.
A bill to raise the age for buying tobacco in Vermont was passed in the House in 2016 but wasn’t approved in the Senate.
“I think there’s a pretty good awareness in the building of how much of a problem this is becoming. It’s got a fair amount of publicity. I think this has a very good chance,” he said.
Till said he believes the Senate will be more supportive during the current session.
LaLonde said he hoped the Human Services Committee will have hearings and invite testimony from interested parties including the companies that make e-cigarettes.
By the end of the week, Till intends to introduce legislation that would tax e-cigarettes in the same way as traditional paper and tobacco cigarettes.
“We don’t really tax these e-cigarettes. The only tax on these things are sales tax, but I have another bill, which will be out later this week, to raise the tax the same as other tobacco products,” Till said.