by Lyn Frano
Tobacco laws in Massachusetts have been updated so all residents have a fair chance to thrive and be healthy.
As of June 1, 2020, general tobacco retailers and adult-only retail tobacco stores can no longer sell flavored tobacco and vape products, including menthol and mint. Smoking Bars are exempt from this policy, and customers are able to access flavored products for on premise consumption only. The list of affected products include, but are not limited to:
- Newport, Kool and Salem menthol cigarettes
- Copenhagen, Grizzly and Skoal mint or flavored dip/chew tobacco
- Cigars, cigarillos or bidis in fruit, candy, mint, menthol or liquor flavors
- Any other tobacco or vape product that has a taste or aroma other than tobacco
- Nicotine products even if they do not contain tobacco
In addition, all vaping products are now subject to excise tax, and the law substantially raises fines for sales to minors and violations of the new law. Municipalities are responsible for imposing fines and permit suspensions to local businesses found to be in violation of the new state laws.
Why flavored tobacco products are being restricted in Massachusetts
The state of Massachusetts strengthened its tobacco laws to protect young people from becoming lifelong tobacco users, and to improve health in populations that have been unjustly targeted by the tobacco and vaping industries.
The tobacco and vaping industries have a long history of targeting specific groups of people to use their products. In particular, youth, LGBTQ, Latinx and communities of color have been unjustly targeted. Some of you reading this piece may be too young, or don’t remember that in 1992, when asked why he didn’t smoke, an executive from JR Reynolds replied, “We don’t smoke that s_ _ _. We just sell it. We reserve the right to smoke for the young, the poor, the black and stupid.”
Hundreds of young people in Massachusetts advocated for and strongly supported flavor restrictions. Many have siblings and friends addicted to flavored vape products as a result of industry tactics. These young people know that limiting access to these harmful products, will protect generations of young people from lifelong addiction and the associated health risks and financial burdens.
Smoking/Vaping and COVID-19
Dr. Nora Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse has said, “Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.”
If you smoke or vape, this is an excellent time to try and quit. Massachusetts is rich in resources to help you, or someone you love, to quit smoking, vaping or using other tobacco products. FREE counseling (over the phone or on-line) and medicines for quitting, are available. Please call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit KeepTryingMA.org.
Smokers who use the helpline’s counseling services quit smoking at a higher rate. On average, 23-25% of smokers who participate in counseling through the helpline are still not smoking six (6) months after they call.
The Smokers’ Helpline is now offering a time limited incentive program to residents who use mentholated tobacco products:
Enroll on-line at www.makesmokinghistory.org/quit-now, complete coaching calls via telephone, and receive:
- $10 after completing the first coaching call
- $15 after the second coaching call
- $25 after the third coaching call
In addition to the incentive program, up to 8 weeks of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy is also available to residents who speak with a coach (once screened for medical eligibility).
Help spread the word in our community and encourage other to learn the truth behind No Menthol in Massachusetts. Visit NoMentholKnowWhy.org and utilize these free resources to support yours or a loved ones journey to become tobacco free.
Lyn Frano, Chairperson of the Braintree Community Partnership on Substance Use, a Program of the Braintree Health Department