Utah Vape Shops Protest Bill to Ban Flavored Vapes

Utah vape flavor ban bill

Chants of “We vape, we vote” echoed through the Utah Capitol as vape shop owners organized a protest against a bill that would ban flavored vapes, claiming it would cripple their businesses.

SB61 Seeks to Curb Youth Vaping

Senate Bill 61, which would prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products lacking FDA approval, has advanced in the legislature with wide support.

Bill sponsor Senator Jen Plumb says the legislation aims to prevent flavored vapes from continuing to serve as a gateway to lifelong nicotine addiction for Utah youth.

Recent survey data shows the vast majority of underage vapers prefer sweet, alcohol- and candy-flavored products over tobacco flavors.

“I know that sounds very nannyish,” said Plumb, a physician. “But I don’t know anyone with nicotine dependence who wouldn’t take back picking up the habit when they were younger.”

Vape Shop Owners Claim Bill Favors Big Tobacco

Owners of Utah’s numerous vape shops protested SB61 would destroy their businesses, arguing it gives an unfair advantage to major tobacco companies.

They believe the ban on flavored vapes beyond tobacco and menthol flavors would steer adults back to traditional cigarettes while blocking access to products that help people quit smoking.

Protesters accused “big tobacco” interests of pushing SB61, despite claims to the contrary from supporters. Vape shop owners asked lawmakers to instead enhance security measures to keep vapes out of minors’ hands.

“If this committee had the courage to ban all tobacco products, I would walk away from every single one of my businesses,” said vape shop representative Beau Maxun.

Supporters Dismiss Claims of Anti-Business Motives

Senator Plumb contends SB61 is not intended to shut down vape shops, but acknowledged it would likely force business model adjustments.

“I didn’t come into this trying to put vape shops out of business,” Plumb said. “But I do think there is likely going to be some adjustments so that we can get these flavors out of the hands of our kids.”

Backers like the Utah Retail Merchants Association argue the bill “levels the playing field” between vape specialty shops and general retailers by restricting flavored product sales across the board.

“If you have a business model built on Captain Crunch and bubblegum flavors, then maybe you have to reevaluate,” said URMA president Dave Davis.

Fate of Bill Remains Uncertain

The debate over SB61 highlights the challenges of balancing public health interests with business interests when regulating emerging tobacco products.

While vape shop owners make an economic argument against limiting flavors, health advocates want bold action to reverse skyrocketing youth vaping rates they attribute largely to the appeal of flavors.

As SB61 continues moving through Utah’s legislative process, it remains unclear whether vape shops’ protests will ultimately impact the fate of the bill. But the heated debate underscores the complexity of policymaking on vaping issues.

News source: https://www.newsfromthestates.com/article/we-vape-we-vote-vape-shops-ask-lawmakers-not-ban-sale-flavored-vapes

Matthew Ma