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New Mexico

New Mexico may ratchet up tobacco oversight

flavored tobacco smoke
Lakana file
A man exhales flavored tobacco smoke.

SANTA FE, New Mexico — New Mexico legislators are considering a full ban on flavored tobacco and nicotine vaping products along with more robust oversight of retail sales to discourage use by minors and young adults.

Backed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, one initiative would raise the age limit for tobacco sales including vaping products to 21 — in line with recent federal reforms signed by President Donald Trump.

The bill, from Democratic Sens. Linda Lopez and Gabriel Ramos, also would establish mandatory licenses for tobacco manufacturers and vendors. The license could be revoked with repeated violations for sales to those under age 21.

Other bills would ban sales and free samples of all flavored tobacco, e-cigarette or nicotine products amid growing concern over the tobacco and vaping industry’s use of flavorings to attract young people.

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.

Advocates for the e-cigarette industry say vaping products save lives by helping smokers quit.

Ramos, a Democrat from Silver City, favors a licensing system that ensures stronger enforcement of age restrictions, but said he believes adults deserve access to flavored vaping products that might help them moderate nicotine consumption.

“We want to make sure that our children stay away from this vaping and that adults have a choice when they turn 21,” he said.

When it comes to licensing tobacco sellers, New Mexico is among 13 states that do not require a license to sell tobacco products over the counter, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Mexico’s tobacco licensing proposal also aims to crack down on contraband vaping products amid a rash of vaping-related lung illness nationwide.

More than 2,600 people nationwide have been diagnosed with a vaping-related lung illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifty-seven people have died.

A public opinion survey commissioned by the American Heart Association indicates 62% support in New Mexico for prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products and 73% support for licensing tobacco retailers. The telephone survey of 607 registered New Mexico voters in late December and early January had a 4 percentage point margin of error. The survey was conducted by Albuquerque-based Research & Polling.

Lawmakers last year extended taxes on tobacco products to include e-cigarettes, while increasing cigarette taxes.

Health / New Mexico Politics / News

Associated Press

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