Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker officially signed into law House Bill 4196, “An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control”, which bans the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine vaping products, including menthol cigarettes. While other states have implemented temporary bans and restrictions in the previous months, Massachusetts is the first state to pass a permanent ban on all flavored tobacco products. Extending the ban to menthol cigarettes is particularly monumental as these products have generally been exempt from past restrictions and are disproportionately smoked by youth and minority populations, in part due to targeted industry marketing of menthol to these specific populations. Additionally, the law places a 75% excise tax on nicotine vaping products and expands coverage for tobacco cessation products and counseling. As a stipulation to this new law, flavored tobacco products can still be sold at licensed smoking bars such as cigar bars and hookah lounges, though consumption must occur on-site.
Governor Baker’s declaration of a public health emergency and the accompanying temporary ban on the sale of all flavored and unflavored vaping products, which was enacted back in September, was lifted early on December 11. Under the newly passed bill, the restriction on the sale and consumption of flavored vaping products began immediately, while the ban for menthol cigarettes begins June 1, 2020.