A bill with the aim of prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products was withdrawn after the public hearing for the bill did not go forward.
Most of Thursday afternoon at the Guam Congress Building was spent discussing Bill 175-37, a bill proposing changes to Guam’s Toilet Facilities and Sewage Disposal Act. After discussions were completed at about 7 p.m., after 5-1/2 hours, the next scheduled public hearing for Bill 50-37 had been withdrawn by its sponsor, Sen. Thomas Fisher. Bill 50 sought to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products on Guam.
Fisher explained he withdrew Bill 50 to make changes after receiving information from the American Cancer Society. Fisher further intended to refile the bill Friday morning with the hope of having a public hearing on the bill Jan. 11.
In response, Sen. Sabina Perez, who was hosting the hearings, explained that certain procedures needed to be followed before a public hearing could be scheduled.
At this point, Bistra Mendiola, the owner of the store Vape Escape, expressed frustration on behalf of herself and other vape store representatives who had closed their doors for the day to attend and give input on the public hearing.
“The people of Guam had the right to be heard today … because shops were closed, revenues were lost, taxation was lost, people lost hours at work,” Mendiola said.
“It was a mockery of the crowd that was waiting today,” added Mendiola, who said 4,165 people opposed the bill.
Then Sen. Telo Taitague expressed her appreciation to those who came to testify in response to Bill 50 and apologized for the delay. Taitague suggested Fisher could have withdrawn it earlier to avoid the wait.
Although not recognized, Fisher interrupted and responded to Taitague after she stated she “looked forward to another bill coming up that has to do with vaping … doesn’t prohibit it or the flavor of it at all.”
“Ma’am, are we doing this right now? Are we doing this bill right now?” Fisher asked.
Perez subsequently recessed the hearing after explaining there was an opening Jan. 11 for the public hearing but couldn’t guarantee the date of the public hearing.
A couple of hours later, a press release from Fisher’s office stated the lack of the public hearing was a result of “irresponsible scheduling.”
“Public hearings are sacred and whether the double-booking was caused by irresponsible scheduling, an error in judgment or incompetence, it should never happen. The stifling of public voices should never happen,” Fisher stated in the release.
“Business owners closed their doors to ensure their voices were heard today. It doesn’t matter if they oppose my bill, they deserve to be heard, along with other public opinions,” Fisher added in the release.
As of Friday 11:28 a.m., Fisher introduced a new bill, Bill 229-37, with the aim of prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products.