Gov. Ned Lamont held a private meeting at his residence in Hartford Wednesday with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss policy and plans around transportation, cybersecurity, economic ventures, marijuana regulation and more.
High up on the list of concerns shared by the two governors is the nationwide outbreak of serious lung illnesses that may be related to vaping.
There are more than 530 confirmed and possible cases across the country, many of them involving young people--the rates of vaping continue to rise among teenagers and high school students, according to experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration.
“You have young people who are dying, and you have young people who are getting addicted to nicotine and they don’t even know what they’re doing,” Cuomo said in Hartford.
State and federal agencies are investigating for causes, but have yet to identify any one vaping product or substance as the cause. FDA officials did say that many of the patients were vaping THC, a psychoactive component of marijuana. Some were using products sold on the black market, officials said.
Cuomo said it’s a good idea for bordering states to work together on how to tackle the issue, because “it makes no sense to pass one set of rules in New York when they can just drive across the border to Connecticut and have a different set of rules and vice versa.”
Some states are taking a tougher approach. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker this week declared a public health emergency and instituted a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products.
When asked if he would do the same, Lamont said it’s too early to take that route in Connecticut.
“Whether you ban all vaping products or whether that leads more people to the black market, the illegal stuff that is even more dangerous, I want to do a little more research on this,” he said.
The governors said some of the vaping issues overlap with discussions on marijuana legalization and regulation in Connecticut and New York, especially as residents don’t have to travel far to purchase marijuana in states like Massachusetts and Vermont.
Lamont said he will be working with neighboring leaders on strategies to address marijuana regulation and vaping issues, including restrictions on flavored e-cigarette products, which are popular among teenagers.
Both New York and Connecticut passed laws this year that raise the legal age to buy tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 years old. But where New York’s law also includes restrictions on flavored products, Connecticut does not have an equivalent policy.
The governors said a regional meeting is planned for Oct. 17 for the two states to coordinate plans for marijuana programs, like similar tax rates and products.
As far as funding goes for programs and services that help residents with tobacco and vaping cessation, Lamont said there will need to be changes.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve been siphoning off some of the money that’s supposed to go to tobacco cessation to other things,” he said. “That’s going to stop.”
Connecticut’s law raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 goes into effect on Oct. 1.