Protest over bill banning vape flavors in the Utah State Legislature

Posted at 7:50 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 23:47:25-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A crowd of people gathered in the Utah State Capitol rotunda and grew louder with every chant.

"We vape! We vote!" they shouted.

The group was demonstrating against Senate Bill 61, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Plumb, D-Salt Lake City. It would restrict electronic cigarette products from being sold in Utah unless they are approved by the FDA. But what angered the crowd was another provision that restricted flavorings in vape juices to mint, menthol and tobacco only.

The bill has the potential to drive some local vape shops out of business with its regulations. Some of the demonstrators argued that vaping has helped them get off tobacco products and there are mandatory ID checks in some vape shops once you walk in the door. But Sen. Plumb argued that her bill is designed to keep children from becoming addicted.

"I think one of the things that’s missed in this message is how important it is to protect our youth and our young folks from nicotine dependence," she told FOX 13 news on Tuesday. "This bill does not take away Utahns' ability to vape. It does remove flavored vapes which are 80% of what children like to vape."

But vape shop owners argued Sen. Plumb's bill would only allow products created and sold by Big Tobacco companies and it wouldn't be effective as "prohibition doesn't work."

"If Sen. Plumb’s intent is to truly keep these products out of the hands of youth, we’d like to see it restricted to specialty retail tobacco product stores only. Because our model is very similar to the DABS. We have state liquor stores for a reason," said Beau Maxon with the Utah Vape Business Association.

Maxon said they have tried to negotiate with Sen. Plumb with no success. The bill on Tuesday passed out of the House Health & Human Services Committee on a 9-1 vote. It previously cleared the Senate with widespread support.