MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — A new report by Tobacco-Free Kids shows 25% of the U.S. population, including over 17 million kids, are protected by state and local laws that restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products. Massachusetts, New York, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and other local municipalities already have some policies prohibiting flavored tobacco sales.

President of the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, Matt Myers, is encouraging Vermont to join the ban. “We have an epidemic of e-cigarette use among kids, and candidly, Vermont—which is normally better than the rest of the nation—is worse than the rest of the nation, in terms of teenagers,” said Myers.

Myers said that each year since 2015, the percentage of kids who use these products and become addicted has grown. Recent data shows that over 38% of kids who use these products use them more than 20 days a month. According to Tobacco-Free Kids, one-fifth of kids use e-cigarettes nationwide, but it’s one-fourth in Vermont. Experts say over 80% of kids who use e-cigarettes use flavored products including fruit, mint, or menthol.

Sen. Ginny Lyons of Chittenden County introduced a bill at the beginning of Vermont’s legislative session that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco. “It absolutely gets kids hooked, and it’s also the way that the vape products have become so appealing and attractive. They are in different colors and different styles,” said Sen. Lyons.

Due to COVID-19 and the legislative session ending, that bill died. Lyons plans to re-introduce it during the next legislative session. She also chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and says prevention is key when it comes to kids smoking.

“We’ve seen the cost of that. There was a study done a few years ago on the cost of heart disease related to smoking and it was $150 million in our state in one year. You’re never going to stop people from accessing tobacco or other addictive products, but we certainly can help to keep it from getting it to the hands of people when they are very young,” said Lyons.