NTU Applauds Gov. Scott Veto of Flavor Ban


Vermont Governor Phil Scott deserves major credit for vetoing a bill (S. 18) that would have banned flavored tobacco products and e-liquids in the state. In the face of extreme pressure from both legislative houses that passed the bills last month, the governor outlined strong concerns about the bill’s impact in his recent veto message. Throughout the legislative process, NTU communicated with legislators about the bill and followed up urging the governor to veto the bill. 

While the intent of banning flavored tobacco products was to improve public health, it was far more likely to adversely affect the health of smokers and those trying to stop smoking. The bill would have placed government between buyers and sellers, would have regulated FDA-approved products out of existence, and would have created the unintended consequence of an illicit market for these products. It also would have had the potential to increase healthcare costs borne to Vermonters and negatively affect the state’s healthcare budget. Finally, this legislation would likely have diminished and not increased revenue sources for the state’s budget.

It is well known that broad-sweeping bans that include flavored smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches are likely to lead adult smokers back to combustible cigarettes. A recent study from the Yale School of Public Health demonstrated this connection, finding that flavor ban policies typically led to increases in cigarette sales — particularly among underage smokers. Flavored smoke-free products like e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches have played an important role in smoking cessation. Lawmakers should take heed in the future; it would be a shame if Vermonters were forced back to more harmful practices.

The Vermont Department of Health estimates more than 70,000 adults are current smokers and close to half of them have tried to quit. Flavored products like e-cigarettes and nicotine pouches have been a success in helping many smokers switch to products that can dramatically improve health outcomes. It would be a mistake to remove these products from the market.

Governor Scott recognized the fiscal challenges that would have been incurred if the ban  were signed into law. In Massachusetts, a similar flavor ban was passed in 2019. According to the Massachusetts Annual Report of the Multi-Agency Illegal Tobacco Task Force, the state lost $114 million in tobacco tax revenue one year after the flavor ban became law.

Furthermore, the Massachusetts ban did not reduce the number of flavored tobacco products. It merely changed where products were bought, according to a study conducted by the Tax Foundation. Despite government technically banning flavored tobacco products, people found what they wanted by crossing state lines or using the illicit market. When crossing state lines, these consumers likely purchased other items during their trips, further impacting local retailers and overall government revenues.

NTU thanks Governor Scott for carefully considering the intended and unintended consequences of a tobacco flavor ban and ultimately vetoing S. 18. It takes courage to stand up against political pressure and instead stand for smart budgetary and health policy for the residents of Vermont.