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Massachusetts governor signs into law nation’s first statewide ban on flavored tobacco products

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday signed into law the nation’s first statewide ban on all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.

The new law bans the sale of flavored vaping products immediately, prohibits the sale of menthol cigarettes beginning in June and extends a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products until Dec. 11.

It also limits the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products to licensed smoking bars where they can only be smoked on-site beginning in June.

Unauthorized retailers would have until then to remove these products from their shelves, said Michael Cummings, a spokesman for Democratic state Sen. John Keenan, a leading sponsor of the law’s flavored tobacco products ban.

“The current youth vaping epidemic is the result of age-old industry tactics used to target kids,” Mr. Keenan said. “We had made great strides in Massachusetts at decreasing the number of youth smokers, but with the introduction of e-cigarettes and the variety of flavors available, we lost decades of progress. With this bill, we are telling Big Tobacco they can never again use flavors to target kids in Massachusetts.”

The law also levies a 75% excise tax placed on the wholesale price of e-cigarettes.

It also restricts the sale of vaping products with nicotine levels of more than 35 milligrams per milliliter to licensed, adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars. Non-flavored products with less than 35 milligrams can be sold in licensed retails stores.

After the temporary ban’s extension expires, the state health department will develop permanent regulations on tobacco products.

The temporary ban, first issued in September, was a response to the growing cases of lung injuries linked to e-cigarettes, which have climbed to 2,290 nationwide as of last week. Forty-seven deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said this week’s action by Massachusetts lawmakers is urgently needed, especially at a time when the Trump Administration might be backing off from a proposal to remove flavored e-cigarettes from the market.

“Massachusetts is sending a powerful message that states and communities cannot wait and will not wait to protect the health of our children,” he said. “Other states should quickly follow their example.”

Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, said adult vapers in Massachusetts should do whatever it takes to remain smoke-free, even if means violating what he described as unjust laws.

“Governor Baker is disingenuous when he claims that flavored vaping products will no longer be sold in the state of Massachusetts,” he said. “Tens of millions of dollars of flavored products will be sold every year in the state, but the sales will take place on the gray and black markets.”

Also this week, a study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further points to vitamin E acetate found in THC-based vaping products as a strong culprit behind the lung injuries.

The Minnesota Department of Health analyzed seized vaping products from 2018 and 2019. While none from 2018 contained vitamin E acetate, all the THC-based products from 2019 tested positive for the additive.

Additionally, more cities and states are pushing back against the vaping industry.

The New York City Council approved Tuesday a citywide ban on most flavored e-cigarettes, exempting tobacco flavors. The ban includes mint and menthol vaping products, but excludes menthol cigarettes.

The District also joined several states this week in suing leading e-cigarette maker, Juul Labs, accusing the company of illegally marketing to minors. D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced the lawsuit Tuesday.

The local fight against the San Francisco-based e-cigarette company succeeds similar lawsuits filed by California and New York last week.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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