Flavored e-liquid bill clears final legislative hurdle but might not withstand a veto



Published: 03-22-2024 3:21 PM

The Vermont Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a bill to ban the sale of flavored e-liquids, nicotine products and menthol-flavored tobacco products.

The vote comes on the heels of House passage of the legislation, S.18, last Friday. It now heads to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk, where its fate is unclear.

Thursday’s vote was a victory for advocates who have tried to ban the products for years, saying it would protect children from getting hooked on flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine products. 

“People don’t have a choice about being addicted,” Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden Southeast, the bill’s primary sponsor, said on the Senate floor Thursday. “And kids especially don’t have a choice when they confront the abusive effects of nicotine.” 

The Senate originally passed the bill last year, but it stalled in the House in the first half of the biennium. 

This year, House members took it up and drafted a series of amendments, including refining the list of banned products and ordering the state’s Health Equity Advisory Commission to study whether to ban the sale of menthol tobacco products, which are used disproportionately by Black and LGBTQ+ people. 

A week ago, the House approved the amended bill by an 83-53 vote. On Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted 18-11 in support of the House version.

It’s not yet clear what Scott plans to do with the bill. But the governor has expressed increasing concern about its financial impact amid rising property taxes and evaporating pandemic aid. The Legislative Joint Fiscal Office has estimated that the law could cost the state up to $14 million in tax revenue annually in the first years after passage.

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“I know it can’t all be about money, but talk about poor timing,” Scott said on WVMT’s “The Morning Drive” radio show Wednesday. “This could cost $15 — and some in the industry have said maybe $30 — million a year. So at a time when we have all these other increased costs and so forth, I’m really, really concerned about the fiscal situation we find ourselves in.”

To override a potential veto, two-thirds of the House and Senate would have to vote to do so. Neither of the chambers’ previous votes to approve the bill this month reached that ratio.