BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts became the first state to ban flavored tobacco and nicotine vaping products, including menthol cigarettes, after Republican Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law Wednesday a bill that’s meant to reduce the appeal of the products to young people amid a rash of illnesses and deaths linked to vaping.
Anti-smoking groups hailed the ban, which restricts sale and consumption of flavored vaping products immediately and does the same for menthol cigarettes starting June 1.
“The Massachusetts law is a major milestone in the fight to reverse the worsening e-cigarette epidemic and stop tobacco companies from targeting and addicting kids with flavored products,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
However, the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, which opposed the legislation, said it’s exploring challenging the new law in court, or seeking other ways to change it.
“Public health and safety has been dealt a blow by anti-tobacco crusaders exploiting a youth vaping crisis, and by lawmakers bypassing prudent policy-making,” the group said in a statement.
In recent months, Massachusetts and other states, including Michigan, Montana, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington, have temporarily banned or restricted the sale of vaping products. However, Massachusetts is now the first with a broad, permanent ban in place on all flavored tobacco or nicotine vaping products, anti-smoking groups said.
The new law specifically restricts sale of the products to licensed smoking bars such as cigar bars and hookah lounges, where they’ll only be allowed to be consumed on-site. The restriction extends to menthol cigarettes and flavored e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and chewing tobacco.
It also places a 75 percent excise tax on nicotine vaping products, gives public health officials new authority to regulate the products and requires health insurers cover tobacco cessation counseling.
Baker said he hopes other states adopt similar restrictions but argued the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are the only ones that can address the issue comprehensively for the nation.
“Sometimes someone has to go first,” he said. “It’s pretty clear there isn’t going to be a federal policy on this anytime soon. So, in the absence of that, we had to act.”