Raising smoking age, banning vape flavors included in tobacco bill

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – There’s a push to keep young people from smoking and vaping in Kansas.

A proposed bill would change state law to ban anyone younger than 21 from buying or using cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

That takes it a step further than the recent federal law which doesn’t restrict possession.

Vape store owners and those in the industry cautioned lawmakers to slow down on deciding what restrictions to put in place.

The proposal would also add to the Clean Indoor Air Act, banning it in public buildings.

The bill received push back because it also bans almost all vape flavors except for menthol.

Supporters of the bill said this would make vaping less appealing to kids. But others said flavors help adult smokers quit cigarettes.

“Nobody wants to have youth have access to any type of tobacco and stuff, but adults really need the flavors to stay off of cigarettes which cause a lot of harm,” said Wally Gibson, owner of One Stop Vape Shop in Independence.

Gibson said he’s not opposed to raising the age to 21, but said the flavors need to stay.

“We’re more concerned about having flavors available for the adults who need them,” Gibson said.

Atchison Representative John Eplee debated the issue on the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. He said going into the debate he believed the bill was just right, but now believes there needs to be more discussion.

“I’ve learned that it probably went too far for the vaping industry in the state of Kansas, so I think we all need more education as legislators on this subject, and I hope that we’ll be able to accomplish that, and learn more and decide what’s right for Kansans,” Eplee said.

The bill also bans cigarettes from being sold in vending machines.

Lawmakers said what lies ahead for the bill isn’t clear.

The state estimates if the bill were to pass it could cost the state more than $6 million in lost revenue per year.

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