Washington tobacco-lovers could have to stock up as certain flavored tobacco products could be banned across Washington very soon.
According to Senate Bill 5380, considered last week in Olympia, certain types of tobacco products would be banned throughout the state, a measure that supporters claim will prevent children from trying tobacco, but opponents admit will restrict freedom of choice and harm the economy.
“Restricting tobacco products which are especially appealing to adolescents, such as flavored tobacco, is a vital step in preventing all children from trying tobacco”, claimed Mary Selecky, state Secretary of Health.
She stated minors are interested in tobacco products that smell and taste sweet and those who begin consuming tobacco before the age of 18 are more likely to consume tobacco further on, increasing the expenses on health care in the state.
Under the bill, all tobacco products, which have a certain flavor or aroma, excluding menthol or natural tobacco, or those tobacco products, which are selling in dissolvable form would be banned. The ban also demands all tobacco products to not be displayed so that they are not directly available to the customers and would permit counties to adopt tobacco ordinances that are more rigorous than the ones adopted on state level.
The measure’s fiscal note states the approval of the bill would result in the loss of tax revenue of approximately $20million for the state treasury in the next two years, however supporters of the measure claim public health benefits would more than offset the loss of tax revenue.
According to a research conducted last year, every $1 spent on tobacco prevention programs during the last decade returned as $5 saved on healthcare expenses, including the costs to hospitals and patients, not only savings to the state.
Local owners of tobacco businesses stated they have been dealing with many restrictions and bans already and the lawmakers should concentrate efforts on enforcing current legislations, instead of adopting new ones.
Washington Retail Association spokesman Mark Johnson admitted that if passed the bill would be especially damaging to small businesses, who depend on the earnings generated by tobacco sales.
Jeffrey Packer, who runs a tobacco shop in Tacoma stated the bill would destroy his business, as it would reduce the profits and restrict freedom of choice of adult smokers across the state.
“The bill puts in jeopardy personal freedom of adult to select the activity they prefer,” Packer added.
During the hearing, Republican Senators from several Senate Committees supported Parker’s arguments.
“I believe the answer is very simple,” Sen. Curtis King, said about the ban on flavored tobacco. “Instead of outlawing a product, why don’t we simply require it to not be displayed in the stores?”
Supporters of the bill, that include several anti-smoking organizations, such as American Cancer Society, and American Lung Foundation, stated flavored tobacco products sometimes have a direct appeal to minors, particularly the products that have fruit or chocolate flavor.