Tobacco Age, Vaping Regulations Get a Hearing

The House Commerce Committee held a hearing on HB 2563, a bill to raise the age for sale, use, or purchase of tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21. The bill would also ban all vaping flavors with the exception of menthol. Among the many other provisions in the bill are a ban on tobacco vending machines, increases in fees charged to stores, and regular checks to make sure stores are following the law.

KNEA testified in favor of the bill as did the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and three legislators – Dr. John Eplee (R-Atchison), Rep. Cindy Holscher (D-Olathe), and Rep. Chris Croft (R-Overland Park). Many other proponents submitted written testimony including several superintendents, members of the State Board of Education, and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Opponents to the bill were owners of vaping stores, representatives of the vaping industry, Casey’s General Stores, and the Petroleum and Convenience Store Owners Association.

Those groups oppose the bill for obvious reasons – they make money selling these products. But in a surprise, other opponents included the Cancer Society, the Lung Association, the Heart Association, Tobacco Free Kansas, and Equality Kansas. What these organizations said was that they were all in support of every provision of the bill except for the exemption of menthol from the flavor ban.

Chairman John Barker (R-Abilene) asked if they were advocating an “all or nothing” position. He asked if they were actually advocating the defeat of a bill that gave them 95% or what they want because of the 5% they oppose. The answer was “yes.” “Have you heard the expression ‘Don’t let perfect become the enemy of good enough?'” Barker asked.

We fear that this opposition may give cover to those who would love to side with the tobacco and vaping industry.

KNEA’s position on this issue is as follows:

KNEA supports all efforts to block access by Kansas children to substances that create serious negative health consequences or lead to addiction including tobacco and vaping products.  We support policies that keep schools free of such products and any effort to raise the age for sale, purchase, possession or use of tobacco and vaping products.   This does not include FDA-approved medications such as nicotine gum when used, if at all, in accordance with label directions.

Anti-Vaxxers Seek Change to Immunization Rules

House Bill 2601 would remove vaccine requirements from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and hand it over to the legislature.

Currently the KDHE Secretary determines, based on medical science, what immunizations are required for attendance in school. The Secretary has the ability to change the list based on new science or the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If HB 2601 were to pass, decisions about what immunizations are needed would fall to lawmakers. If the Secretary were to recommend the addition of an immunization, it would be subject to the legislative rules and regulations process which are slow and cumbersome. Further, if an immunization were to be added, that addition would automatically sunset in one year.

The intent of the proponents is to stop the state from adding immunizations by politicizing the process.

Among the opponents were pediatricians, parents, KDHE Secretary Lee Norman, Rep. Dr. John Eplee (R-Atchison), and Andy Marso. Marso contracted meningitis as a senior at The University of Kansas. While his life was saved, thanks to the quick thinking of fellow students and the work of the KU Medical Center, he lost his fingers and toes. There was no vaccine for meningitis when he was young. There is now and Marso is a strong advocate for the importance of immunization. Marso noted that his medical bills topped $1.5 million for a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine that costs $150.