BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts became the first state to ban the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes, after the Republican governor signed a bill Wednesday that responds to recent deaths linked to e-cigarettes and attempts to reduce their appeal to young people.

Anti-smoking groups hailed the ban signed by Gov.
Charlie Baker, which outlaws the sale of flavored vaping products
immediately and of menthol cigarettes starting June 1, 2020.

states have temporarily banned or restricted flavored tobacco or vaping
products to different degrees, but Massachusetts is the first state with
a permanent ban in place, anti-smoking groups say. Especially notable
is its ban on menthol, which is among the most popular flavors and has
often been exempted from bans.

The bill is a “major step forward,”
Baker said, but states can do only so much to address the public health
emergency around e-cigarettes and other vaping products. The federal
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug
Administration are the only ones that can address the issues
comprehensively, he said.

President Donald Trump has promised for months to approve a national ban on most flavored e-cigarettes. But in recent weeks his administration canceled a planned announcement of a ban, and Trump has said he will meet with the vaping industry and medical professionals instead.

pretty clear there isn’t going to be a federal policy on this anytime
soon,” Baker said Wednesday. “So in the absence of that, we had to act.”

New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, which
had opposed the legislation, said in a statement the ban will
disproportionately affect communities of color and cost the state
hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Studies have shown
menthol cigarettes are consumed disproportionately by young people and
minorities, and anti-tobacco groups and health experts have argued
menthol has been marketed in particular to African Americans.

law’s new restrictions on flavored tobacco products are important
because they have helped the traditional smoking market grow and led to
the flavored vaping products popular with youths, state Attorney General
Maura Healey said.

“This is not a nanny state effort,” said Healey, a Democrat. “This is a significant public health effort.”

American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network said it hoped the new
law would send a message to an industry accused of using flavored
products to introduce teenagers to smoking.

“More than 80% of
teens who have ever used a tobacco product started with a flavored
product, and the tobacco industry knows this,” the organization said in
an emailed statement.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for
Tobacco-Free Kids, called it “a critical step to help end the worsening
youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop tobacco companies from using
appealing flavors to lure kids into a lifetime of addiction.”

law places a 75% excise tax on vaping products and require health
insurers, including the state’s Medicaid program, to cover tobacco
cessation counseling.

The legislation responds to growing concern about the health effects of vaping products, including deaths whose exact cause is still being investigated.

In September, Baker had declared a public health emergency and ordered a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products — flavored and unflavored. Baker said Wednesday he’ll keep that ban in place until Dec. 11 while his administration drafts additional regulations.

By Philip Marcelo

Introduce Yourself: Name, Company, Goals