House Takes Bold Step to Outlaw Flavored Tobacco

The Massachusetts House last week passed a landmark bill that imposes a tax on vaping products and outlaws flavored tobaccos. The legislation is scheduled to be debated Wednesday in the Massachusetts Senate.
MHA is a member of the Tobacco Free Mass. coalition that strongly supports the House bill banning flavored tobacco products, including mint, wintergreen, and menthol flavors. In addition to being a flavor, menthol is also a numbing agent, allowing the smoker to inhale more deeply and become more addicted. According to recent data, 54% of high school students that smoke use menthol cigarettes, and more than 90% of tobacco-using African American youth smoke menthol cigarettes.
The House bill (H 4183) imposes an excise tax on vaping products at 75% of the wholesale price. Thirty percent of that tax revenue would go to a trust fund that communities can use for substance use disorder prevention. The bill additionally: requires private insurers, the Group Insurance Commission, and MassHealth to provide coverage for tobacco use cessation counseling and all generic FDA-approved tobacco cessation products with at least one product available with no out of pocket costs; restricts the sale of vapes/e-cigarettes with specified nicotine levels to adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars; increases the retailer fine for sales to minors from $100, $200, and $300 for first, second and third violations, respectively, to $1,000, $2,000 and $5,000.
The effective date for the flavored vape/e-cigarette ban, increased retailer fines for sales to minors, and insurance mandates is immediately upon passage. The effective date for the flavored tobacco ban is June 1, 2020.
As reported in the State House New Service, Cambridge Democrat Marjorie Decker said on the House floor, "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 our children.”
Massachusetts hospitals have been on the frontlines in combatting tobacco use, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. Most hospitals have banned use of all tobacco products anywhere on the hospital campus.