Connecticut Eyes Flavored Tobacco Ban

Lawmakers want to eliminate all flavors, including menthol, for tobacco and vaping products. 

February 10, 2021

HARTFORD, Conn.—Connecticut legislators are considering a full ban on flavored tobacco and electronic cigarette products, including menthol cigarettes, the Hartford Courant reports.

Senate Bill 326 would outlaw the sale of flavored tobacco, vape and electronic nicotine delivery systems. The proposal defines flavor as a “distinguishable taste or aroma,” including any type of “fruit, chocolate, menthol, mint, wintergreen, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice.” The taste or aroma of tobacco is not included in the description.

Retailers oppose the bill because of the potential to lose a significant revenue stream. “By banning menthol cigarettes, it’s not only going to jeopardize our sales, but also revenue for the state,” said Nurul Alam, owner of Foodland, during a public health hearing on the proposal. “We are losing these cigarette sales, also other sales, because that individual might come to our store to find menthol, and they are also buying other stuff,” Alam said.

“Prohibiting flavored tobacco from legal sale is poor policymaking,” Jonathan Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, told NACS Daily. NECSEMA represents 1,300 stores and service stations across New England.

“These products have enormous market demand, and where there is demand, there is a market,” Shaer said. “A ban simply moves more than $350 million out of the legal, licensed, regulated, enforced and taxed framework where retailers operate to other sources of access, including over state lines, online and the shadows of a black market. If the state truly cares about mitigating youth initiation, it would be wise to keep the products where they have control—in the regulated market—and look to close flavored vape loopholes and choke off online sales and social sourcing.”

Kyle Feldman, vice president at National Convenience Distributors (NCD), said prohibiting the sale of menthol cigarettes in Connecticut would trigger job losses and lower tax revenue.

“The wholesale distribution industry understands the concern of banning the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products to the younger generations, but Connecticut already has a 21-year-old restriction for these products,” Feldman said.

Massachusetts already prohibits flavored tobacco products, while New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island have bans for flavored e-cigarettes and have introduced legislation to add menthol cigarettes to the bans. Maine might also consider similar bills. California’s ban on menthol and flavored tobacco products was set to go into effect on Jan. 1, but the ban has been delayed until a voter referendum in 2022.

To learn more about flavor bans for tobacco products, be sure to read “The Flavor Ban Boom” in NACS Magazine.