After a lengthy battle last year, Connecticut’s Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont is still supporting a ban on flavored e-cigarette vapor products. It would be the third time a flavor ban bill was brought before the General Assembly.

While the initial ban came during a so-called public health outbreak, all of the proposals have featured support from anti-harm reduction groups who purport that banning e-cigarettes and flavored e-liquids will protect youth. If Connecticut lawmakers truly want to protect youth, they would understand that bans are ineffective and ultimately make the issue worse.

On Jan. 13, a 13-year-old male student died from a fentanyl overdose at a magnet preparatory school located in Hartford — just 1.5 miles away from the Connecticut statehouse. During the investigation, police found 40 packages of powdered fentanyl in two classrooms and the school’s gym and another 100 bags in the student’s bedroom.

This is not an isolated incident. The day after the school reopened classes after sanitizing the school of any possible fentanyl, a 13-year-old in California died from what police described as an overdose. In August 2021, a 13-year-old Missouri boy died of a drug overdose during a sleepover at a 12-year-old friend’s house. In the same month, in California, a 14-year-old girl passed away after overdosing on a pill laced with fentanyl.

Unfortunately for the parents and family members of these kids, there isn’t much lawmakers can do, as prohibition of prescription drugs has allowed for an inflow of illicit drugs.

It’s well known that prescription opioid abuse was the first wave of the opioid epidemic. After one company changed its prescription policies to reduce abuse, heroin use “nearly doubled” according to a 2012 study.

Between 2012 and 2014, the number of prescription opioids that were dispensed in the United States decreased by 5.6 percent, from 255.2 million to 241 million. Yet during the same time period, deaths from heroin overdose increased by 78.5 percent, and deaths due to fentanyl overdoses increased by 111 percent. In 2019, when lawmakers were reacting to the spate of what was being called vaping-related lung injuries, despite actually being illicit vapes, 14,019 Americans died from a heroin overdose and another 36,359 died from fentanyl poisoning.

Many lawmakers used the so-called vaping injury epidemic in 2019 to justify bans on e-cigarette and vapor products. In fact, one sponsor of last year’s flavor ban legislation called these products “deadly.” Ultimately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 68 vaping-related deaths, with the majority of those related to the use of black-market vapor products containing tetrahydrocannabinol — the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2019, when 68 Americans died from using black market vaping products, another 3,391 Americans aged 15- to 24-years-old succumbed to an overdose attributed to heroin and/or other illicit opioids. In Connecticut, in 2018, there were 948 opioid-involved deaths. According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, there were 1,372 fatal drug overdose deaths in the Constitution State — a 14.3 percent increase from 2019. Moreover, CDPH has identified 474 individuals aged 15- to 24-years-old that have died from an unintentional drug overdose between 2015 and 2021.

Given that overdose deaths are now becoming common among middle schoolers, Connecticut lawmakers ought to rethink bans and focus on the real problem — and the real substances that are killing Americans in droves. Bans helped fuel America’s overdose epidemic. E-cigarette and vapor flavor bans will only help the already-booming black market, ultimately harming the already-overburdened public health efforts.

Lindsey Stroud is a visiting fellow at Independent Women’s Forum and director of The Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s Consumer Center.