State lawmakers call for ban on flavored tobacco

BOSTON (WHDH) - State lawmakers are weighing a ban of flavored tobacco products across Massachusetts, saying officials need to do more to stop kids from vaping, but manufacturers and convenience store owners say they’re already working to prevent youth use.

At a packed hearing at the State House Tuesday, lawmakers pushed a bill that would prohibit flavored tobacco and blasted manufacturers as putting profits over safety.

“These companies are doing nothing but making money,” said State Rep. Danielle Gregoire, D-Marlborough. “They don’t care about anyone else but themselves and their pockets, and it’s time for us to act and it’s time for us to protect public safety.”

State Rep. John Keenan, D-Quincy, said sweet and fruity-flavored products were attracting children at “alarming rates,” and a student at the hearing backed him up.

“At least 45 percent of my graduating class has used a Juul,” said Bryan Moss, a ninth-grader. “It’s shocking.”

Juul says it doesn’t sell flavors clearly targeted to kids and would support a ban on “inappropriate” flavors.

“While we do not believe prohibition of all non-tobacco flavored vapor products for all adults is the right answer, we strongly agree that there is no place for youth-appealing flavors in the marketplace,” a Juul spokesperson said in a statement. “That is why we would support an outright ban on inappropriate flavors and packaging, such as those that mimic kid candies, foods, and drinks.”

And convenience store owners, wearing shirts reading “I protect minors,” blamed the internet for providing easy access to flavored tobacco products, saying store employees are able to deny sales to kids.

“These bills take the products out of the brick and mortar environments where retailers are trained to age-verify and they’re doing it with 95 percent compliance,” said Jonathan Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association.

The bill could come up for a vote at the end of July. If it is approved, it would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to ban flavored tobacco products.

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