A newly introduced bill in the Vermont House of Representatives promises to ban the sale or possession of flavored tobacco products and e-liquids across the state.
The proposed bill—also known as H.823—was first read and referred to the Committee on Human Services on Jan. 21 and follows the momentum of Vermont’s recently increased smoking age.
Though the act proposes limiting flavor options to the taste and smell of tobacco, the proximity of New Hampshire and New York among other loopholes leaves some young smokers unfazed by the bill’s introduction.
“People are just gonna switch to menthol flavored vapes,” said one Castleton University student who asked not to be named. “That’s what we’re already doing.”
Currently sitting in committee, the bill is sponsored by a myriad of democratic politicians, including Rep. William Notte of Rutland City—all of whom have yet to comment publicly.
Cam, a 20-year-old Castleton student who asked to not use his last name, has been smoking tobacco products since he was a freshman in high school and switched his nicotine usage primarily to e-cigarettes roughly two years ago. A self-declared nicotine addict, he sat completely unabashed when asked the reason for his habit; “It’s a way to cope.”
Cam said he exercises frequently, plays hockey in his free time, is an incredibly active member of the community, and is proudly vocal about his Republicanism. He’s also forthright in his opposition to all the smoking and vaping regulations.
“If we can go serve our country at 18, go $60,000 in debt at 18, if we can drive a car at 18, we should be able to cope with things our own way,” he said under a puff of bluish smoke.
Though “Tobacco-Free Campus” signs are plastered throughout the campus, certainly Cam is not the only member of our community who bristles at the thought of a flavorless future.
Nineteen-year-old student Ben Thompson, who is a firm believer in a free market, trusts that Castleton campus will see a change after the bill’s passage.
“Everyone is going to be in [nicotine] withdrawal for, like, a while. Or they’ll just switch to cigarettes,” Thompson said. “If you’re vaping tobacco, why not just smoke a cigarette? It tastes better.”
Though several students believe the act will be effective in deterring Vermont youth from picking up smoking, some individuals are concerned about the residual impacts this bill could have on the community.
“I think that with Rutland, there’s quite a few businesses that are headshops that sell glass pieces for smoking and that sell vape products—and a lot of them, these smaller headshops, aren’t going to be able to compete with limited inventory coming in,” Castleton sophomore Sky Hulser said.
In addition, she worries that young smokers will merely pick up more dangerous habits with black market flavored vape products or making their own e-liquids.
Needless to say, H.823 is undoubtedly controversial among both members of the Castleton community and younger individuals within the greater Vermont area.
But some say they will be undeterred by whatever the state does.
“Yeah, I’m gonna quit when I’m damn ready to quit,” Cam said.