CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire vape shop owners came out in force Wednesday against a proposal to ban flavored products, arguing it would force them out of business and harm the health of adult customers who will return to smoking.
The Trump administration announced this month that it will prohibit fruit, candy, mint, and dessert flavors from small, cartridge-based e-cigarettes favored by high school and middle school students. But menthol and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes will be allowed to remain on the market, and the targeted flavor ban entirely exempts large, tank-based vaping devices, which are primarily sold in vape shops that cater to adult smokers.
Representative Jerry Knirk wants New Hampshire to go further and ban the sale of all flavored vaping products, except tobacco flavors. A former surgeon, he cast the bill as a move to stem a public health crisis, and said the benefits of preventing teens from vaping outweighs the benefit to adults who use the products for smoking cessation.
“We need to place children’s health and public health over the profits of the vaping industry,” he told the House Commerce Committee.
Kaycee Regan, a junior at Woodsville High School in Haverhill, testified that she watched with “horror and disbelief” as popular vaping cartridges moved last year from social media into the hands of her friends.
“This is such a crisis among our youth, it needs strong action,” she said.
But the parade of vape shop owners who followed rebutted her argument that only young people are attracted to vaping products with fruit and other flavors.
Steve Kaltsis pulled out two bottles and showed them to lawmakers, including one liquid flavored like a sweet breakfast cereal.
“I’m 34 years old. Cap’n Crunchberries and pineapple grapefruit, these two things are keeping me off cigarettes,” said Kaltsis, who said he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 10 years before taking up vaping five years ago. He opened a vape shop in Pelham in November after sales dropped from $1,800 to $150 per day at his store in Dracut, Massachusetts, where the governor announced a four-month moratorium on the sale of vaping products in September.
“Anything that is opposing adults getting their hands on these flavors that help them quit would be a tragedy for the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “Just look what it did to Massachusetts. Look what it did to me.”
“’Live Free or Die,’” Kaltsis continued, invoking New Hampshire’s state motto. “I was kinda hoping I could stick with that.”
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that typically heat a flavored nicotine solution into an inhalable aerosol. They have been pitched to adults as a less-harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, but there is limited data on their ability to help smokers quit.
House lawmakers also are considering a bill that would put a moratorium on the sale of e-cigarettes “until the commissioner of the department of health and human services determines that they are not a cause of illness or death.”