Lawmakers hope to lay groundwork for vaping ban in NM

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SANTA FE, N.M. — A new batch of bills at the New Mexico Roundhouse aim to make it harder to buy and use vape and tobacco products. Some state lawmakers are hoping it lays the groundwork for a statewide ban.

State Sen. Martin Hickey, who represents Albuquerque, knows there’s not much lawmakers can do to keep lifelong smokers away from cigarettes – but he believes they have a duty to protect younger generations from the threat of addiction.

“It’s kind of the beginning of the chain reaction of addiction,” Hickey said. “And if we can nip it in the bud now, we can stop so much misery for the individual, for the families, for the addictions that follow later on.”

Hickey is also a physician, and he believes the state is losing the battle against teen vaping.

“The trends are, they’re going up, we were waiting to get another survey and I bet we’re probably moving close to 50% of high school students,” he said.

Hickey also said those trends are skewing younger.

“Apparently nine out of ten middle school students have tried vaping,” he said.

Studies have shown that children who use e-cigarettes are seven times more likely to use tobacco.

“At that young age, when you get stresses in life, you get into a pattern of use of what we call self-medicating, and using nicotine, and then that builds pathways in the brain,” Hickey said. “For other medicinal or self-medicinal that is substances, such as alcohol, and other drugs.”

Hickey admits there is likely too many barriers to enact a statewide vaping ban, but that’s why he and other state lawmakers are putting forth a menu of bills working to chip away at the problem.

Some of the ideas include raising tobacco taxes, banning flavored products, and allowing local governments to enact tougher restrictions against smoking. There are also proposals to prohibit smoking in racinos and fun prevention programs.

“Whatever doesn’t make it, we’re coming back, because this is so critical and fundamental to youth health,” Hickey said. “I mean, it’s, again, think of it as a chain reaction, it starts here with vaping.”

To see legislation Hickey has sponsored, click here.