As the latest legislative session takes hold, a new bill that would ban flavored tobacco products for everyone is causing concern for representatives and businesses.
“People have a personal responsibility for their health choices. This bill takes that away,” said House Rep. Alan Martinez, whose district covers part of Rio Rancho.
According to the most recent data collected by the New Mexico Department of Health from 2003 to 2019, tobacco use has dwindled down in New Mexico in the past decade.
But they say there are still nearly 260,000 adult and more than 9,000 youth cigarette smokers.
NMDOH says the use of e-cigarettes accounts for 1 in 3 high school youth and the potential for nicotine addiction among a new generation of young people is of significant public health concern.
Martinez, who is on the House Commerce & Economic Development Committee, says a lot of people in New Mexico have used flavors to get off of cigarettes.
“It is not the healthiest way to get over cigarettes. I wouldn’t ban soda either just because it is bad for people. If you ban it, though, they are just going to find it somewhere else,” he said.
He says he is all for getting kids away from tobacco but that at the same time it is going to be hard for adults to live with.
Having a choice is important to Martinez, but he also has concerns for businesses in his district.
“This hurts small business. Small gas stations and other local stores that sell this make money from it,” he said.
According to Grand View Research, a market research database, the global e-cigarette and vape market size was valued at $22.45 billion in 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 30.6% from 2023 to 2030.
Vaping, which has become popular with teens and young adults, is a growing concern in the nation. It started as a way to get over cigarettes but evolved into a culture, according to Child Adolescent Behavioral Health.
They say the vaping cultures have grown to include trade shows, fairs and conventions and expos. The trade shows offer an array of products, vendors, seminars, social interactions with other vapers, parties, gifts, vaping contests and other activities. These conventions present a unique opportunity for vape enthusiasts to mingle and network with other vapers and vape manufacturers.
The products available to buy include phone covers, headphones and earbuds, shirts, hoodies and hats, car holders, backpacks, skateboards, posters, lanyards and more.
Due to laws passed in some states, special bars and vape shops, similar to coffee shops, have been created where people gather to vape.
In Rio Rancho, there are several smoke shops and vape shops.
Vape Rio, which has four stars on Google Reviews from 70 respondents, is located on Southern Blvd. near Twisters and Subway. They sell vape devices and a number of flavors with different nicotine levels.
The Observer contacted Vape Rio for comment but did not get a response.
Martinez says he plans on asking hard questions when this bill goes to the committee for approval.
“I think it is better to have this out in the open and regulated properly. It is better for people and for business,” he said.