By PHILIP MARCELO Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts' governor signed into law Wednesday a groundbreaking ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's signature makes Massachusetts the first to enact a permanent statewide ban, anti-smoking groups said.
It immediately bans the sale of flavored vaping products and will outlaw sales of menthol cigarettes starting June 1, 2020.
The American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network said it hoped the new law would send a message to an industry accused of using flavored products to introduce teenagers to smoking.
"More than 80% of teens who have ever used a tobacco product started with a flavored product, and the tobacco industry knows this," the organization said in an emailed statement.
Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, called it "a critical step to help end the worsening youth e-cigarette epidemic and stop tobacco companies from using appealing flavors to lure kids into a lifetime of addiction."
In September, Baker had declared a public health emergency and ordered a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products — flavored and unflavored.
Baker said Wednesday he'll keep that ban in place until Dec. 11 while his administration drafts additional regulations.
The new law responds to growing concern about the health effects of vaping products, including deaths.
The law also places a 75% excise tax on vaping products and require health insurers, including the state's Medicaid program, to cover tobacco cessation counseling.
"This nation-leading step will save lives," Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said.
The ban was passed by the Senate on Nov. 21 before the legislature broke for a holiday recess. It had earlier been passed by the state House of Representatives.
Studies have shown menthol cigarettes are consumed disproportionately by young people and minorities, and anti-tobacco groups and health experts have argued menthol has been marketed in particular to African Americans.
A major retailers' organization called the legislation disappointing.
"We are disappointed the legislature supports bills that disproportionately impact communities of color and have disastrous implications for public health, public safety, state tax revenue and jobs in the Commonwealth," Jonathan Shaer, president of the New England Convenience Store Owners and Energy Marketers Association said in a statement.
He called menthol and mint tobacco as "legal, adult products that aren't associated with youth overuse."
© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.