Legislative Wrap-Up 2014

Preventing secondhand smoke exposure

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont worked throughout the legislative session to pass smoke free legislation H.217.  Secondhand smoke exposure threatens the health of Vermonters, increasing the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and other life-threatening diseases.  This law takes significant steps to protect children and adults in Vermont from secondhand smoke exposure by addressing smoking in several venues:

  • Hotels – expands current law to prohibit smoking in lodging establishments for transients traveling or public vacationing.
  • State  owned property – creates a 25 foot smoke free zone around all state owned buildings and prohibits smoking on the grounds of any state owned hospital or residential recovery facility.
  • Motor vehicles – prohibits smoking in motor vehicles when children under the age of 8 are present.
  • Public schools – expands current tobacco prohibition to include tobacco substitutes, which include e-cigarettes on public school grounds.
  • Child care facilities – prohibits the use of tobacco products and tobacco substitutes, which include e-cigarettes on the premises of any licensed child care facility or after school program.
  • State parks and forests – prohibits smoking in designated smoke free properties or grounds owned or leased by the state.

The Coalition thanks Representatives Bill Frank and Jill Krowinksi, the lead sponsors of H.217, for championing this bill and taking action to protect Vermonters from secondhand smoke.  We also thank the members and chairs of the House Human Services and Senate Health and Welfare Committees for taking the time to review this bill and for making it a public health priority. 

 Tax on tobacco products

The Coalition supported a tax increase on snuff and other smokeless tobacco products.  The Legislature raised the tax on snuff and other new smokeless tobacco products to $2.29 per ounce.  This tax increase raises the price of smokeless tobacco products to parallel the current tax on cigarettes.  Tobacco tax increases have been proven to help prevent youth uptake of tobacco products, and establishing tax parity between smokeless tobacco products and cigarettes will help ensure that that youth and adults do not use these products as cheaper alternatives to smoking. The Legislature also passed a 13 cent cigarette tax increase.  The Coalition opposed this increase as such a small tax increase does not have any public health benefits.  We advocated for a significant tax increase, which is proven to help smokers quit and deter youth smoking uptake.  Seventy five percent of Vermont residents support a $1.25 increase in the tobacco tax, a move that would prevent 2,400 kids from becoming smokers and save 1,400 Vermonters from premature, smoking-caused death.  While the 13 cent increase is disappointing, the Coalition will continue to urge lawmakers to pass a significant tobacco tax increase and help reduce tobacco use in Vermont.

 Funding for tobacco control

The Coalition urged the Legislature to prevent the depletion of the Tobacco Trust Fund as the Governor’s FY2015 budget proposed to do.  Our recommendations included depositing into the fund any payments withheld by the tobacco industry, a percentage of tax receipts, and a percentage of one time money from a settlement with RJ Reynolds.  Despite a statutory obligation to place any withheld tobacco settlement funds into the Trust Fund, lawmakers decided to use these funds this year for the State Healthcare Resources Fund.  The Coalition will continue to urge lawmakers to prioritize tobacco control and ensure a sustainable source of funding for the Trust Fund in the future.