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VA Anti-Tobacco Bills Aim to Keep Teens from Smoking

About 33 percent of Virginia high school students have used e-cigarettes at some point, according to the CDC. (Adobe Stock)
About 33 percent of Virginia high school students have used e-cigarettes at some point, according to the CDC. (Adobe Stock)
January 21, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- Even as the Trump administration raised the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 last month, Virginia lawmakers have introduced three bills to make it even harder for teens to access tobacco products. The bills aim to increase the state cigarette tax six fold, ban the sales of all flavored tobacco products and create a statewide retail licensing system.

The bills' cosponsor, Democratic Delegate Patrick Hope of Arlington, pointed out that raising the cigarette tax from 30 cents a pack - the second-lowest rate in the nation - to $1.80 would bring the tax up to the national average.

"The data shows that by increasing tax by this amount, it would decrease the number of people that smoke," Hope said. "And in turn, it will reduce the access for youth to get their hands on cigarettes and become addicted."

Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed raising the cigarette tax by 30-cents a pack, but Hope said he doesn't think that goes far enough. Almost 1 in 4 Virginia high school students uses tobacco in some form, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another anti-tobacco plan that falls short, according to Hope, is the Trump administration's ban on certain e-cigarette flavors. Hope said the number of Virginians who vape has exploded over the past four years, and this bill would outlaw all flavored tobacco products in the Commonwealth.

"You really can't sugarcoat this in any way - the industry is flavoring these products to attract kids, and that is very harmful to them," he said. "And so, what we're doing is we have an outright flavored tobacco ban."

He added a bill to establish a tobacco retail licensing system would help ensure stores are keeping tobacco away from kids. Last fall, one person died and at least 30 reported lung injuries from using vaping products, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA