Gov. Raimondo’s Actions to End the… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Gov. Raimondo’s Actions to End the Sale of Flavored E-Cigarettes Will Protect Rhode Island Kids; New Poll Shows Two-Thirds of Voters Support the Move

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
March 25, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Gov. Gina Raimondo for taking action to end the sale of flavored e-cigarette in Rhode Island, making permanent emergency regulations issued last year. This new policy, recently finalized by the state Department of Health, takes effect tomorrow and is a tremendous victory for Rhode Island’s kids and exactly what’s needed to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic that is addicting a new generation of young people.

We commend Gov. Raimondo for her strong leadership in confronting the youth e-cigarette epidemic and protecting the health of Rhode Island’s kids. In September, Gov. Raimondo announced initial emergency action halting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

This action is particularly timely in light of concerns that smoking and e-cigarette use can increase risk for harm from the coronavirus (COVID-19). The coronavirus attacks the lungs, and behaviors that weaken the lungs put individuals at greater risk. The harmful impact of smoking on the lungs is well documented, and there is a growing body of evidence that e-cigarette use can also harm lung health. There has never been a better time for individuals to protect their health by avoiding use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

Rhode Island becomes the third state to prohibit the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes, joining Massachusetts and New Jersey (Massachusetts prohibited the sale of all flavored tobacco products, a strong step others states should take as well to stop tobacco companies from targeting kids with flavored products once and for all).

There is no time to waste as the youth e-cigarette epidemic has gone from bad to worse. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey (2019 NYTS), e-cigarette use among high school students nationwide increased to 27.5% in 2019 compared to 11.7% in 2017. Altogethermore than 5.3 million middle and high school students now use e-cigarettes. In Rhode Island, 30.1% of high school students use e-cigarettes, compared to 4.2% who smoke cigarettes. The evidence is clear that flavored e-cigarettes have fueled this epidemic – 97% of youth e-cigarette users report using a flavored product in the past month, and 70% cite flavors as the reason for their use.

Poll Results

Tobacco-Free Kids today also shared new poll results showing that Rhode Island voters are deeply concerned about youth use of e-cigarettes and strongly support permanently ending the sale of flavored e-cigarette and vaping products. Over two thirds of likely voters (68%) support the policy, including 59% who strongly support it. Support crosses political and demographic lines. (additional poll data here)

By a margin of over two to one, voters believe it is more important to reduce the number of kids who start using tobacco by prohibiting the sales of candy, fruit, menthol and mint-flavored e-cigarette and vaping products (65%), than to help smokers try to quit cigarettes by giving them access to the flavored e-cigarette and vaping products of their choice (30%).

By a 43-point margin (70% support, 27% oppose), voters support prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products. This survey demonstrates intense and widespread support not only for a law that continues the emergency order prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products, but also for ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products. We urge the legislature to take such action.

Two-thirds (67%) of voters view vape shops and stores that exclusively sell e-cigarettes unfavorably, while 66% view e-cigarette companies unfavorably and 68% view vaping companies unfavorably.

There is widespread recognition that youth vaping is a problem, with 69% seeing at least some youth usage of e-cigarette and vaping products like Juul in their community. Consequently, there is also deep concern about these companies targeting kids. Nearly 8 in 10 are concerned that tobacco companies may be using candy, menthol, mint and fruit flavors to market tobacco products to young people, including 58% who are very concerned.