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DeWine vetoes bill banning Ohio communities from banning flavored tobacco

DeWine and Vanderhoff veto flavored tobacco ban.jpg
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine and his Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff announce that DeWine has vetoed a ban on local bans of flavored tobacco products.

Calling vaping among young Ohioans an “epidemic” with “long term consequences”, Gov. Mike DeWine has vetoed a Republican-backed bill banning communities from outlawing flavored tobacco.

It's his first major veto of legislation from the lame-duck session of the legislature last month.

DeWine said flavored tobacco helps kids move into vaping and smoking. He cited a story on tobacco use among middle and high school students that he said "showed that two thirds of the students who reported using tobacco products said they use them because 'they come in flavors that I like'," DeWine said. "Flavors, of course, including menthol flavors, including menthol help mask the harshness of tobacco, making it easier for young people to become addicted."

DeWine added that smoking-related illnesses cost Ohio Medicaid $1.85 billion a year. Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff added that a fifth of Medicaid spending was attributable to cigarette smoking.

And DeWine also suggested a statewide ban on all flavored tobacco is needed, but stopped short of demanding one.

"I've not specifically had that discussion with any legislators in regard to a statewide ban. I'm just looking at this from a logical point of view, and I listen to my friends who have businesses and I understand their desire to have uniformity," DeWine said. "I just think, look, the easiest way to do this is to have a statewide ban and we'll have uniformity will remove the issue and will also protect kids throughout throughout the state of Ohio."

The bill passed last month in the lame duck legislative session, aimed at communities with bans on flavored tobacco, including Columbus, which passed a ban just before the legislation was approved by state lawmakers. It overwhelmingly passed the Ohio Senate 23-8, but the House concurred with the Senate by a vote of 50-35. That is not a veto-proof margin.

Dewine’s office said through a spokesperson that their understanding is the new General Assembly cannot initiate a veto override of a bill passed by the prior General Assembly.

Retailers who sell flavored tobacco and people who use it are angry over the veto. Gregory Conley speaks for the American Vapor Manufacturer Association, and notes youth smoking has been dropping in recent years.

“Youth are absolutely using these products, but adults are as well," Conley said. "Among adult vapers, many of whom have used these products to quit smoking, something like 65-70% are using flavors that Gov. DeWine seemingly wants to ban."

Health experts say youth smoking has decreased in part because of the USDA's 2009 ban on flavored cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes and other flavored tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes weren't included in that ban. Last year the FDA proposed a ban on all menthol cigarettes and all flavored cigars, which the tobacco industry is fighting.

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Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.