Journal Staff 

Business owners and a Democrat senator are opposed to legislation introduced by a Republican lawmaker that would ban flavored tobacco products on Guam. “Flavored tobacco product” is defined as “any tobacco product that contains a constituent that imparts a characterizing flavor but does not induce any product that has received a marketing order or authorization by the United States Food and Drug Administration.”


Sen. Thomas J. Fisher of the 37th Guam Legislature, introduced on Feb. 16 Bill 37-50, which would prohibit flavored tobacco products within Guam, if passed into law. “The primary target is the sale of flavored vape that is ultimately communicated to children,” said Fisher, a freshman Republican lawmaker. “When you think about these flavored vapes, they come in strawberry, blueberry, vanilla, chocolate, and popcorn. What demographic would be interested in those sorts of flavors? Children. Adults are not interested in that.” 

As of 2019, eight states issued emergency rules to temporarily ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. Those states are Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, and Washington, according to 

The bill was influenced by a forum held during the 2022 campaign season, Fisher said. “About 10 to 15 of us were invited to one of the local high schools to speak to the students, and one of the students asked how you feel about our ability to vape,” he said. “If you think that you are making an open, free choice to smoke, you’re wrong because you are a child. … The idea came from a question from a student.”

Fisher told the Journal, “Vaping is a problem in the schools, and we have to stop it. We’re not going to allow people to sell carcinogenic poison to children,” he said. “We’ve got to give them a break. Let’s not get them addicted to this filthy substance before they’re even in middle school.”


Year-to-date data provided by the Guam Department of Education shows that 1,310 incidents have been recorded involving the use, possession, or distribution of tobacco or nicotine products among students in elementary, middle, and high school. The incidents occurred in the last six months, between August 2022 (when the school year began) to Feb. 22, GDOE said in the report. There are three types of products involved – tobacco, smokeless tobacco – or chew tobacco, vape, mode, and e-cigarettes– names for vape products. Incidents involving vape, mode, or e-cigarettes are at 1,220, and 700 events resulted in suspension. Of the 700 suspensions, 674 events were specific to vape, mode, or e-cigarettes. 

Fisher said he hopes this bill will address the situation.

Meanwhile, there are 21 currently licensed standalone vape shops, according to Marie P. Lizama, acting director of the Guam Department of Revenue and Taxation. Standalone vape shops means those only selling vape products.


Flavored vape products on display in the Vape Escape Guam in Mangilao.
Photo by Isaiah John Aguon

The Republican shared he spoke with a member of the business community who opposed the legislative proposition. “They are very much against it,” Fisher said. “At least this person understands they’re about to lose their business. I am just sorry for that, but I am not going to weigh the health, short term or long-term health of children against this person’s ability to amass cash.”

He clarified that vape shops would not have to close for business in Guam, if his measure would pass into law, “They can still sell vape, just not flavored.” 


The Journal spoke with Bistra Mendiola, chief officer, and Theseus Mendiola, CEO; both of BT Corp., which does business as Vape Escape. The Mendiolas have 18 employees working at the three Vape Escape locations on the island. The first shop opened in 2017. 

Bistra Mendiola is opposed to the proposal. “In essence, not only the businesses will be affected but primarily the adult former cigarette smokers,” she said.  “And why we strongly disagree with this bill is because numerous studies already have shown in states that ban flavored products … products had a detrimental reversal, and they are going back to smoking that cancer stick.”

However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there is insufficient evidence to suggest vaping can help people quit smoking. 

Bistra Mendiola, quit smoking in 2018, after smoking for more than two decades. She agrees the intention of the bill is “noble.” But “the bill does not address the real issue [which] in essence is how are the children getting these products in hand? We absolutely agree that minors shouldn’t have any access to either tobacco, vape, alcohol, and marijuana, because it is against the law,” she said.

The retail compliance rate across Guam increased to 97% in 2022 from 88.1% in 2021, according to Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. This data – which monitors whether retailers are complying with the law prohibiting sales to minors – was gathered after GBHWC, and Guam Rev&Tax conducted a random tobacco retail compliance island wide. 

San Nicholas

Theseus Mendiola, who smoked for more than 20 years had in 2015 also switched to vaping. He said, “My staff know the consequences of facilitating a minor.”  That is instant termination, he said, if a staff members sells to anyone under the legal age of vaping. “We have a 100% ID check.”

A petition against the ban has been started by the company.

On the opposite side of the legislative aisle, Sen. Dwayne San Nicolas of the 37th Guam Legislature, disagrees with the bill. “Yes, I’m opposed to it … and I vape,” said the freshman Democrat senator. “I think it’s a measure to make people smoke cigarettes again.”

He did not have an alternative or modification for the bill, responding, “Let consumers choose.” “I’m opposed to banning cigarettes just as much as I am against banning vape,” San Nicolas said. “Let people choose.”

Fisher received support for the bill by a member of the local health community.


Dr. Hoa V. Nguyen, owner, American Medical Center, agrees with the measure. He said, “Vaping is like smoking cigarettes. We see vaping more than cigarettes, even more in young adults.”

“It is never good to start,” he said and explained the effects of vaping. “It will affect the development of the brain, when starting it young, especially at the school level,” Nguyen said.

Young kids who do vaping have a risk of picking up smoking and drinking habits, he said. “Banning the flavored vaping product is a good idea because it is targeted at the younger population,” he said. “It is addictive. When they start young, it is very hard to stop.”

Nguyen said there has been an “increase in vaping of our clients.”

“We see a lot of young adults that use vaping,” he said. “The kid will tell me that they vape.” Ten to 12 years of age are the youngest clients he has knowledge of who are vaping. “There has been an increase over the years,” Nguyen said. 

The local doctor encourages parents to talk to their children about the effects of vaping. 

Despite receiving opposition from the community, Fisher is confident this bill will pass into law “because I believe in the ladies and gentlemen in the Guam Legislature.”

The bill will go into full effect six months after passing into law. Any retailer and any agent or employee of a retailer who violates it will be subject to a fine of $500. Any subsequent violation will receive a fine not less than $500 nor more than $2,000. mbj