CCAGW Urges Rhode Island House Health and Human Services Committee to Oppose H 6396 | Council For Citizens Against Government Waste

CCAGW Urges Rhode Island House Health and Human Services Committee to Oppose H 6396

State Action

June 29, 2021

House Health and Human Services Committee
Rhode Island House of Representatives
82 Smith Street 
Providence, RI  02903

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the 4,846 members and supporters of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) in Rhode Island, I urge you to oppose H 6396.  This legislation would prohibit “the sale of certain flavored tobacco products and electronic nicotine delivery systems [ENDS].”

H 6396 will not prevent Rhode Island citizens from using flavored tobacco products or ENDS.  Instead, they will purchase these items in neighboring states that do not have this ban, through the internet, or on the black market.  

Before Rhode Island jumps on board the anti-flavor train, the state should carefully examine what happened in Massachusetts, which was the first state to permanently ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products.  According to a study by the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, lost excise tax income in Massachusetts from selling fewer menthol cigarettes alone amounted to $62 million in the first six months of the ban.  Massachusetts’ loss became its neighboring states’ gain, which is likely to happen to Rhode Island if the state implements a flavor ban for vaping products and electronic cigarettes.

Cigarettes excise tax stamp sales dropped by 23.9 percent in Massachusetts while Rhode Island’s increased by 18.2 percent.  The estimated total loss to Massachusetts including the sales tax was $73,008,000.  If the Rhode Island legislature should pass this legislation, it will lose its ENDS revenue to another state and the black market.

Under this legislation, if Rhode Island tobacco retailers sell flavored tobacco products or ENDS, without a license or violate Chapter 23 – The Department of Health, which would be amended by §23-1-60, are subject to a $500 fine. 

The Food and Drug Administration is considering a ban on menthol cigarettes but two dozen justice, law enforcement, legal, and drug policy organizations, including the ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Legal Action Center, and the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers recognized the serious problem with banning menthol cigarettes and sent a letter to the Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on April 26, 2021 expressing their concerns. 

Flavored e-cigarettes became pariahs, as many thought they caused e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI).  But the culprits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was vitamin E acetate, an additive in tetrahydrocannabinol-containing e-cigarettes, which were obtained from “friends, family, or in-person or online dealers.”  In other words, obtained by illicit means.

Flavor bans are particularly injurious to individuals that use vaping or other electronic cigarettes to wean themselves off harmful combustible cigarettes.  It is the burning of tobacco that releases the harmful chemicals that cause lung and heart disease and cancer.  Instead of discouraging or banning ENDS, we should be following England’s lead.  Public Health England (PHE) continues to argue for and promote alternative nicotine delivery devices, like e-cigarettes, because they are less harmful and could play a crucial role in reducing smoking which “remains the largest single risk factor for death and years of life lived in ill-health and is a leading cause of health inequalities in England and in other parts of the world.”  PHE has found that, vaping is “positively associated with quitting smoking successfully.  In 2017, over 50,000 smokers stopped smoking with a vaping product who would otherwise have carried on smoking.”

Banning flavored tobacco products and electronic cigarettes will hurt people who want to use less harmful tobacco products to stop smoking and help increase criminal activity in Rhode Island.

Again, I urge you to vote against H 6396.  

Sincerely,

Tom Schatz
President, CCAGW

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