- Associated Press - Saturday, June 1, 2019

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Three new Vermont laws that make it harder or more expensive for young people to buy tobacco products or electronic cigarettes will help the state ensure fewer young people begin using the products, according to Vermont’s top health official.

During the just-completed session of the Vermont Legislature, lawmakers passed three laws that Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said would have a “major public health impact for generations to come.”

On Sept. 1, Vermont will become the 14th state to raise the age to buy or possess tobacco products or e-cigarettes from age 18 to 21.

A separate new law effectively prohibits the online sale of e-cigarettes, liquid containing nicotine, or other tobacco substitutes to Vermonters by requiring such sellers to hold a Vermont license. The third law subjects the sale of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to the same 92% tax already assessed on tobacco products.

The laws were signed separately over the past several weeks by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Levine says that nationally, there has been a 78% increase in vaping among high school students from 2017 to 2018, which he calls alarming.

“By increasing the age to purchase and possess tobacco to 21, restricting online e-cigarette sales and establishing an e-cigarette tax, Vermont is continuing its public health leadership role in curbing nicotine addiction and tobacco use,” Levine said.

In addition to the long-term health concerns of heart and lung disease and cancers related to tobacco, vaping products pack their own potentially toxic chemicals, he said.

Other states and Congress are also working to keep vaping and tobacco products from underage users.

In April, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, said he planned to introduce legislation to raise the minimum age nationally to buy tobacco and e-cigarette from 18 to 21.

Earlier this week, Massachusetts sued a national retailer of e-cigarette and vaping products, alleging the company violated state law by targeting minors for sales of its merchandise. The company says it has taken aggressive actions against youth usage.

Last month, North Carolina sued a producer of vaping products seeking to limit what flavors it can sell to ensure underage teens can’t buy its vaping products. In that case, the company said it was taking steps to reduce youth vaping.

Levine said Vermont’s three new laws are a way for the state to say it will not allow young people to be recruited as a new generation of tobacco users.

“We know that prevention requires many different strategies to succeed in protecting those most vulnerable to these highly marketed and flavorful tobacco products,” Levine said.

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