A Maryland doctor is planning to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session to ban flavored e-cigarettes.
Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard), the Senate’s only physician, announced late Wednesday that he has submitted emergency legislation for drafting that would prohibit the sale of vaping products designed to taste like mint, candy, fruit, or other non-tobacco flavors. A bill to do the same will also be introduced in the House of Delegates as House Bill 3, a top priority, according to the office of Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County). That measure will be introduced by Economic Matters Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), who requested a bill to be drafted this summer.
Lam’s announcement comes as the Trump administration has backed away from a previous commitment to issue a nationwide ban on most flavored e-cigarette products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been working on an e-cigarette flavor ban since 2015, but it has yet to take action.
“This ban is needed to protect people’s health,” Lam said. “As a physician and a legislator, I find it unconscionable that bad politics has overruled good science. With vaping-related deaths rising, we must act now.”
He said the bill is needed to curb growing rates of teenage vaping and the increasing cases of vaping-associated lung injuries and deaths.
From 2017 to 2018, the National Youth Tobacco Survey found a 78 percent increase in the number of high school students who reported being current e-cigarette users. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that nearly all high school-aged e-cigarette smokers use flavored nicotine products.
“Banning the sale of flavored cigarettes contributed to the steep decline in smoking among teens during the last decade, but the growing availability of flavored vaping products risks reversing this progress,” Lam said.
The proposed bill will not ban the sale of unflavored vaping products or drugs or devices approved by the FDA.
This bill is co-sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County).
In a related development, officials in Frederick County announced Thursday that they would join a class-action lawsuit against e-cigarette maker JUUL Labs and Altria Group, the parent company of Philip Morris USA and a 35 percent stockholder of JUUL.
The lawsuit alleges misleading practices designed to attract teenagers and pre-teens through the use of flavored nicotine products and targeted advertising.
Montgomery County government filed a class-action case in U.S. District Court in October; the county’s claims have been consolidated with other government cases in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. That’s where Frederick County’s claim was filed.
“We need to hold companies accountable for promoting these dangerous products to our children,” Frederick County Executive Jan H. Gardner (D) said in a statement. “Young people are being lured into vaping with flavors like cotton candy, strawberry milk, and popcorn. We must keep these toxins out of the hands of our youth.”
In October, JUUL announced that it would no longer sell most flavored JUUL pods in the U.S.
After the release of the National Youth Tobacco Survey this month, the company announced that it would also suspend sales of mint-flavored pods in the United States.
“These results are unacceptable and that is why we must reset the vapor category in the U.S. and earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with regulators, Attorneys General, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use,” JUUL Labs’ CEO K.C. Crosthwaite said in a statement.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include information about a House bill to ban flavored vaping products.