HCN News & Notes

Health Organizations Welcome State Ban on Flavored Tobacco and Vape Products

BOSTON — On Wednesday, the Massachusetts State Senate approved SB 2407, “An Act to Modernize Tobacco Control,” which will prohibit the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, and chewing tobacco. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Nov. 13 and is expected to be signed by Gov. Baker, making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to pass a law to remove all flavored tobacco, including e-cigarette products, from store shelves.

“The American Lung Association is proud to congratulate the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on its bold leadership in modernizing its approach to tobacco control,” said American Lung Assoc. President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “By ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, Massachusetts is protecting its youth from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and tobacco-related illnesses.

“The legislative package that now awaits Gov. Baker’s signature stands to raise the bar for tobacco control across the country,” he added. “Absent strong action from the federal government, we urge states and localities to follow Massachusetts’ lead. Clearing the market of all flavored tobacco products is critical to addressing the youth e-cigarette epidemic, just as increasing funding of tobacco-cessation and prevention programs, and increasing taxes for vape products, are proven, effective tools in reducing tobacco use for all ages. This bill is a major win for the residents of Massachusetts and stands to positively impact statewide tobacco-use rates, tobacco-related death and disease, and tobacco-related health costs.”

Flavored tobacco has been used to attract children and teens to tobacco for decades. Most recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 27.5% of kids are using e-cigarettes, and that many started with flavored products. Fruit, mint, and menthol are the most popular flavors among high-school students using e-cigarettes, with 66.1% of kids using fruit-flavored e-cigarettes and 57.3% using mint or menthol e-cigarette flavors.

In addition to ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, the bill also delivers on a number of issues prioritized by public-health advocates, such as adding an excise tax of 75% of wholesale price on e-cigarettes and e-cigarette devices, bringing parity with combustible cigarettes in the state; allocating 30% of the revenue from the vape tax to the Community Behavioral Health Promotion and Prevention Trust Fund for public health programs; requiring 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; and increasing fines for retailers who sell tobacco to youth and also for retailers who sell untaxed tobacco products.

Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS) President Dr. Janis Moriarty also heaped praise on the ban.

“Reducing tobacco use is a priority issue for the MDS due to the oral-health complications caused by smoking and tobacco products. In addition to heart disease, lung disease, and other health problems, tobacco use has been associated with serious oral-health impacts, including oral cancer and gum disease,” she noted. “E-cigarettes also can be harmful to oral health. Vaping sweet e-cigarettes, including popular mint varieties, can increase the risk of dental cavities. Additionally, the nicotine in e-cigarettes reduces blood flow, restricting the supply of nutrients and oxygen to the soft tissues of the mouth, which can cause the gums to recede and exacerbate periodontal diseases.

“Banning all flavored tobacco products and taxing e-cigarettes will have a significant impact in the fight to make sure that young people grow up without the burden of tobacco and nicotine addiction,” Moriarty went on. “Flavors have undoubtedly made it easier for kids to start using tobacco products and e-cigarettes.”