January 10, 2020

[RICHMOND, VA], January 10, 2020 — At yesterday’s Tobacco Control Policy Press Conference, Virginia lawmakers and public health organizations introduced three tobacco control bills to protect the health of our community, specifically Virginia’s youth, from tobacco addiction and tobacco related disease and death.

Delegate Patrick Hope provided an overview of the three proposed bills: tobacco tax (HB 1120), tobacco retail licensing (HB 1283) and flavored tobacco ban (HB 1119). 

The Virginia cigarette tax is currently $0.30, the second lowest in the country and well-below the national average of $1.81.  Hope recommends increasing the cigarette tax in Virginia by $1.50 and a 39 percent wholesale tax on other tobacco products to save lives and provide revenue toward cessation initiatives. A significant increase has proven to be one of the most effective ways to prevent children from smoking and to encourage cessation among adults. 

Currently, Virginia does not have a system to accurately identify tobacco retailers in Virginia. HB 1283 would create a comprehensive list of tobacco retailers in the Commonwealth allowing for better enforcement and merchant education to prevent tobacco sales to youth who are already victims of the tobacco industry. 

Dionne Henderson, Community Impact Director with the American Heart Association said, “Laws that penalize underage youth are difficult to enforce and raise the possibility of selective enforcement against people of color, LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities and boys who are more likely to smoke, because they have been targeted via advertising and product placement by the tobacco industry.”

The third bill would ban flavored tobacco and exceeds President Trump’s plan which prohibits fruity and sweet flavors in electronic cigarettes by also exempting menthol and flavored liquids for open tank systems.

Pediatrician and Director for the Medical Society of Virginia, Harry Gewanter, MD expressed his concerns about how the tobacco industry targets youth with flavored and menthol products. “The first tobacco product used by over 80 percent of youth will be a flavored one,” said Gewanter, “and if menthol cigarettes are left on the market, kids will likely shift to using those.”

Delegate Cliff Hayes, Senator Jennifer Boysko, Senator Adam Ebbin and Richard Szucs, MD also gave remarks expressing their support of the bills to protect the health of all Virginians. The bills are also supported by American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Medical Society of Virginia, Tobacco21.org and Tobacco Free Alliance of Virginia.