Call to action: Massachusetts congress votes to make Gov. Baker’s 4-month vape ban permanent
When Governor Charlie Baker signed an executive order last month banning the sales of flavored vapor products statewide for at least 4-months, the action was met with a mixture of surprise, contempt, and outrage. E-cig advocacy groups partnered with vape shop owners in filing a lawsuit against the emergency policy, only to be thwarted by court judges nearly at every turn. The ban would eventually stand, and it could even be extended if the governor feels such an action to be warranted in the future, said Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins in a written order.
Other governors in states like Utah, Michigan, and New York attempted to implement statewide flavor bans of their own, but in many cases those decisions were immediately halted by state judges until more extensive litigation could occur in the courtrooms. Elected officials in Massachusetts may have witnessed these judicial setbacks in other states and perhaps grew fearful of new, more aggressive lawsuits being filed against their own short-term vaping ban in the coming weeks. Within hours of winning the initial lawsuit, the Massachusetts Congress began taking decisive actions towards a more permanent solution.
Last month, the Massachusetts House voted by a margin of 127-31 to pass a bill that would make Governor Baker’s 4-month flavor ban permanent. Not only would nicotine-based vapor products be illegal for sales, distribution, and manufacturing, but THC- or marijuana-containing cartridges, as well.
On Thursday, the bill traveled to the Senate where it sailed through the approval process with ease. After a reconciliatory vote in the House, the final version passed by a margin of 127-31 in the Senate and 119-33 in the House. By midnight, the bill had landed on Governor Baker’s desk. All if needs to become state law is a signature from good, old Charlie.
Massachusetts’s vapers: Call to Action
In addition to outlawing flavored e-cigarette products – including menthol and mint - the bill will also add a 75 percent excise tax on non-flavored vapor products sold throughout the state. Missing from the proposal are any legislative actions for the prevention of kid-friendly marketing practices of e-cig companies like JUUL, any restrictions on excessive nicotine content levels of these pod-style vapor products, or any enhanced penalties for vendors caught selling vaping products to minors.
The flavor ban will be total and all-encompassing. It will take effect on June 1, 2019, assuming Governor Baker signs the bill into law. He only has ten days to sign it, and his intentions are unclear at the moment. A petition against the proposed legislation is available via Change.org. The Massachusetts government website also lists various contact information for Governor Charlie Baker, including phone number (617) 725-4005, Twitter, and Instagram.
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