Some flavored tobacco products might not be around in Washington for much longer.
Senate Bill 5380, which had a hearing Monday in Olympia, would ban some kinds of tobacco products in the state, a move that the measure’s supporters say will keep kids off nicotine but opponents say will hurt the economy and limit free choice.
“Limiting tobacco products that are particularly appealing to young people—the flavored and the candy-like—is a major step toward our goal of keeping all kids from starting to use tobacco,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky.
She argued that young people are curious about tobacco products that taste good and people who start using a nicotine product before they are 18 are more likely to use tobacco for the rest of their lives, driving up healthcare costs in the state.
The bill would ban tobacco products that have an aroma or flavor other than tobacco or menthol, that are marketed as such or that come in dissolvable, capsule form. It would also require all tobacco products to be displayed somewhere they are not directly accessible to buyers and it would allow county-level jurisdictions to pass tobacco regulations that are stricter than state ones.
According to the bill’s fiscal note, it would lead to a loss of tax revenue of about $21 million for the state in the 2011-13 biennium, though supporters of the bill said that the health benefits of keeping young people off tobacco would offset those losses.
Tobacco retailers in the state argued that they were saddled with enough restrictions already and that the Legislature should focus on enforcing existing laws, which prohibit anyone under 18 from buying tobacco, if their goal was to keep flavored tobacco products away from children.
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