By Rep. Marybeth Redmond
I am delighted to be serving the Essex community as a first-time legislator assigned to the Human Services Committee. The “People Committee,” as it is known, studies legislation that affects a wide swath of Vermonters, particularly those struggling with economic insecurity; children and families engaged with the foster care system; the disabled and aging; and corrections-involved persons; among others.
We also take testimony and make recommendations on legislation that improves the health and well-being of our citizens. In recent weeks, we have been learning about the public health crisis involving e-cigarettes and vaping and the impacts upon our youth. In December 2018, the Surgeon General declared an epidemic regarding e-cigarette use among teens. This action was prompted by new data showing a 78-percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in just one year’s time (2017-18). In that same timeframe, middle school use increased by 48 percent.
According to Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the Vt. Dept. of Health, e-cigarettes get youth addicted to nicotine while their brains are still forming. Teens who use e-cigs are four times more likely to become regular tobacco users. Companies advertise to teens on social media, market an enormous assortment of flavors, use cool design and packaging to increase appeal, and sell to minors via the Internet.
The medical community is deeply split on whether e-cigs are less harmful than regular cigarettes, or whether they are effective in helping smokers quit. The devices have been in existence only 12 years, so there is not sufficient data regarding their long-term health effects. Currently, the FDA has approved eight different smoking cessation aids and e-cigs are not one of them, nor have companies applied to be considered as such.
This week, your House Representatives voted to pass H.47 (by a vote of 134-6), which places an excise tax on the liquids and delivery devices of e-cigarettes to discourage use among youth who are the most price-sensitive consumers. Just as we tax other tobacco products, 92 percent of the wholesale value of e-cigs will be collected at the licensed distributor level and used for prevention purposes. Other legislation is in the pipeline to restrict retail and Internet sales of e-cigs in Vermont (H.26), as well as to increase the purchase age to 21.
The Human Services Committee also continued its second week of receiving testimony on H.57, an act preserving the right to abortion. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 6, 4:30-6:30 p.m. in the House chamber in Montpelier. Witnesses may begin signing up to speak at 4 p.m.; testimony is limited to two minutes per person. Written testimony can also be submitted to: email@example.com.
Feel free to reach out to me regarding any issue/concern you might have at firstname.lastname@example.org.