Massachusetts House passes flavored tobacco ban, vaping tax

Massachusetts House lawmakers have approved a “first in the nation” bill that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products while also imposing a new 75 percent excise tax on nicotine vaping products.

The ban would apply to menthol cigarettes.

The American Heart Association praised the moved on Wednesday as an important step toward preventing future generations from becoming addicted to deadly tobacco products.

“The House sent a clear message today that tobacco companies should not be allowed to use flavors to market their deadly products to our children,” said Allyson Perron Drag, government relations director for the American Heart Association in Massachusetts. “The easy availability of menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars, flavored hookah and kid-friendly, e-cigarette flavors is causing an increase in youth tobacco use of epic proportion. With their colorful packaging and sweet, candy flavors, today’s flavored tobacco products are often hard to distinguish from the candy displays near which they are frequently placed in retail outlets. The removal of all flavors from all tobacco products is essential for reducing their appeal to our children.”

The measure must still be approved by the Senate before it heads to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk for consideration.

Christian M. Wade reported that “lawmakers who voted for the tough new restrictions cited concerns about rampant teenage use of vaping products, the state’s rising health care costs for treating lung cancers and a nationwide vaping-related illness that has sickened more than 2,000 people and killed 39, including three people in Massachusetts.”

The ban on the sale of flavored vaping products could go into effect as soon as the bill is signed. The ban on menthol cigarettes would not go into effect until June 1, 2020, according to MassLive.

“Today we are clearly communicating to big tobacco companies that while you stole the health and well-being of our parents and grandparents, you cannot have the health of our children,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge.

Flavored  Tobacco Facts

  • Menthol cigarettes are heavily marketed to African American smokers, 85% of whom use menthol products. Menthol is also popular with Latinos, 45% of whom use menthol products.
  • Because menthol products produce a cooling and soothing effect, and because candy-flavored tobacco products are more attractive to kids, they are considered good ‘starter products’ for youth and other inexperienced tobacco users.
  • More than half of all youth and young adult smokers now smoke menthol cigarettes. Younger populations have the highest rate of smoking menthol cigarettes. Menthol’s effects are not limited to cigarettes; menthol is also a popular flavor in other combustible products and in e-cigarettes.
  • Menthol is the preferred flavor for 12.9% of adult cigar users. African American neighborhoods have a disproportionately high number of tobacco retailers and pervasive tobacco marketing, especially of menthol products.
  • Nearly 90% of smokers first try a tobacco product by age 18.
  • Experimentation with cigarettes by adolescents, even on an infrequent basis, is associated with an established smoking habit as an adult.
  • E-cigarette use in high school students increased from 1.5% in 2011 to 20.8% in 2018, nationwide
  • In 2018, e-cigarette use nearly doubled in high school students, from 11% in the previous year to 21% in 2018; in 10th graders, the increase was from 8.2% to 16.1%.
  • E-Cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product among adolescents in the United States.

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