Gov. Baker confirms: Flavored vaping in Massachusetts is dead...forever
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker issued a press release yesterday announcing the future of flavored vaping after the temporary ban expires on December 11. Only tobacco flavors will remain, with one minor exception for specially licensed smoking bars where flavored vapes may be “smoked” only on-premise.
The new law, An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control, was recently approved by both houses of the state congress by overwhelming margins and also targets flavored Big Tobacco products including menthol cigarettes and flavored chewing tobaccos. The anti-flavor legislation is considered the most aggressive of any state thus far.
The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA) issued an emergency Call to Action in early November which is recently updated with new information. When public health expert and professor at Boston University heard of the state’s newest plans for a permanent flavor ban, he issue the following statement in the journal Tobacco Analysis.
“On the heels of the New York City ban, the governor of Massachusetts today signed a law that bans the sale of all e-cigarettes in the state, with the sole exception of tobacco-flavored ones, but allows cigarettes to continue to be sold at any gas station, convenience store, or other retail store in the state.
“There is no public health justification for banning the sale of fake cigarettes but allowing the real ones to remain on the shelves, especially since the fake ones are much safer than the real ones.
“Moreover, these policies are going to have a severe, negative impact on the public's health, since they are going to result in many former smokers returning to smoking and many others turning to black market products.”
Siegel continues by blasting the state’s elected officials for providing Big Tobacco with the greatest gift imaginable and right before Christmas – the permanent removal of its most threatening competitor. Tobacco control expert Zvi Herzig of the Uvacharta Bachayim Institute in Jerusalem, Israel, responded to Siegel’s comments on Facebook by noting the recent rise in stocks prices among the world’s leading tobacco companies.
"This gift to Big Tobacco is reflected in the unanimous assessment by tobacco stock analysts: these e-cigarette bans are going to result in a substantial shift from flavored e-liquids to tobacco cigarettes. Because of the removal of competition and the increase in cigarette sales, these analysts are recommending that investors buy tobacco stocks."
The new state law legally allows manufacturers of flavored vapor product to continue making their products, as long as they only sell them to retailers outside of the state. However, the extreme severity of the legislation will likely translate to many of Massachusetts’ vape shops being forced to close their doors forever. Thousands of jobs will likely be lost right in the midst of the holiday season.
Overview of the new Massachusetts anti-vaping law
The Massachusetts flavor ban is already in effect per Governor Baker’s executive order issued in October. The new law simply extends the ban indefinitely without any window of opportunity for vapers to restock their supplies. Conversely, the ban for menthol cigarettes, flavored chewing tobaccos, and flavored cigars will not go into effect until June 1, 2020 – some six months away.
An overview of the new state-sanctioned anti-vaping regulations includes the following:
- The sales of flavored vaping products other than tobacco is prohibited unless purchased in specially licensed tobacco shops and “smoked” on-site.
- Any retailer offering flavored vapes must post signage warning of the dangers of “severe lung disease associated with vaping products.”
- The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is granted the legal authority to immediately pull from store shelves any product that the agency deems “a substantial risk to public health.” The recall can occur seemingly without notice and at any time.
- DHP is also granted the authority to conduct on-site inspections and issue penalties to vendors found in violation of the new anti-vaping regulations. Fines can be as high as $25,000 for repeat offenders.
- Tobacco-flavored vapes with a nicotine content of 35 mg/ml or higher can only be sold and “smoked” in 21-and-over establishments.
- All tobacco-flavored products must still be stored “behind the counter.”
- “Convenience stores, gas stations, and other retail outlets” can continue selling non-flavored vapes, as long as the nicotine content remains below the 35 mg/ml threshold.
- A new 75 percent excise tax will be placed on the “wholesale price of nicotine vaping products.” This is in addition to the state’s current 6.75 percent sales tax. The new excise tax will take effect on June 1., 2020.
One of the strangest things about the governor’s press release is that the term “marijuana” is only referenced a single time. “The state’s Cannabis Control Commission has also quarantined THC-based vaping products, except for a specific carve-out for devices exclusively to vaporize marijuana flower for medical use patients,” the document reads.
This failure to focus primarily on cannabis-based rather than nicotine-based vapor products is rather alarming because th event that kicked off this whole “let’s kill vaping” hysteria is an outbreak of newly identified lung injuries being linked to the vaping of Black Market THC-enhanced cartridges
But Governor Charlie doesn’t seem to believe in the facts, because directly after his single reference to marijuana, the press release issues a boldly false statement, “The cause of e-cigarette- or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) remains unknown.” Never mind that the FDA and the CDC are finally beginning to acknowledge otherwise.
(Image courtesy of Shutterstock)