DeLeo: Action on Massachusetts vaping bill could come soon

A vote could come within the next month on legislation aimed at curbing youth tobacco and e-cigarette use, House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the State House News Service on Tuesday, as advocates met with lawmakers to make their case for quick action to ban flavored tobacco.

A bill that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products is now pending before the House Ways and Means Committee, after earning endorsements from the Health Care Financing and Public Health committees. This week a Superior Court judge allowed the Gov. Charlie Baker’s temporary ban on vaping product sales to stay in place for at least another week.

“I think that relative to vaping, and what I really support, probably primarily, is that hopefully sometime before we break this year, hopefully that’s going to happen, that we have to have a more comprehensive discussion going beyond the ban in terms of what the law’s actually going to be in the future,” DeLeo told reporters after speaking at an annual hearing on health care costs.

Flavors motivate individuals to start using e-cigarettes and are also associated with a stronger perception of being addicted to e-cigarettes, according to new research from the Tobacco Center for Regulatory Science of the American Heart Association.

People who used flavored e-cigarettes were twice as likely to report high satisfaction compared to those who did not use flavors, with those using mint or menthol flavors nearly three times more likely to report satisfaction than those who did not use flavors, according to the study.

Dr. Lauren Smith, the chairwoman of Tobacco Free Mass, a coalition that includes the American Heart Association, told the News Service that flavors can encourage kids to start and keep smoking. She said a menthol prohibition is particularly important because menthol is “not just a taste.”

“It has a physiologic effect on your throat and your breathing passages so that it numbs it a bit and makes it easier to take deep inhalations, so it makes it less harsh,” she said. “For folks who are trying cigarettes for the first time, it’s often a pretty unpleasant experience, but menthol takes the edge off of that so it’s easier to get started and it’s also much harder to quit.”

Massachusetts last year raised the statewide age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21, and banned the use of e-cigarettes in places where traditional smoking is prohibited.

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