Last week, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Representative RoseLee Vincent along with their colleagues in the House of Representatives passed legislation to ban all flavored tobacco products and tax vaping products in an effort to protect youth from the harmful effects of tobacco usage.
Known as An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control, the legislation also requires commercial health insurers and MassHealth to cover tobacco cessation counseling and all nicotine replacement therapies with generics offered without any cost-sharing to the consumer. The flavor ban includes a ban on menthol cigarettes and restricts higher nicotine level products to age 21 plus tobacco shops and smoking bars.
“In keeping with our focus on youth wellness this session, the House took a nation-leading step today to modernize our laws that regulate tobacco,” said Speaker DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “By prohibiting the sale of all flavored products, we are making tobacco less enticing for young people, while also making it easier for people to access the tools they need to quit tobacco use. This truly is a public health crisis that requires a bold step, and I thank Chair Mahoney and Chair Gregoire for their important work on this issue. This legislation will save lives.”
“I thank Speaker DeLeo, Chair Mahoney and Chair Gregoire for bringing this important piece of public health legislation to the floor of the House for consideration,” said Representative Vincent (D-Revere). “For the past few years, high school students from my district have been advocating to me for the passage of ban on flavored tobacco because they know all too well how tempting this and vaping are to their peers. Knowing now how dangerous smoking is as opposed to when smoking was in vogue years ago, I am proud that the House took this step to protect the public health of the next generation in modernizing our tobacco laws.”
“This bill aims to ensure that our young people do not fall prey to the dangers of tobacco use,” said Public Health Committee Chair Representative John Mahoney (D-Worcester). “These products are highly addictive and endanger the long-term wellbeing of our youth and Commonwealth, and I am proud that the House has passed a bill that directly addresses this public health crisis.”
“I am so proud to have stood with my colleagues today while we passed monumental legislation to protect the children of this Commonwealth,” said State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Chair Representative Danielle Gregoire (D-Marlborough). “In addition to prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in our state, this legislation also expands MassHealth coverage for cessation devices. House Bill 4183 makes incredible steps towards preventing our youth from becoming addicted to these harmful products, as well as assisting individuals already battling addiction with their recovery efforts.”
“Tobacco companies specifically target these products towards our younger population, which can lead to a lifetime of addiction,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “With the House vote today, we will be taking a major step towards protecting our children and ending this addiction.”
In Massachusetts, 9,300 adults die annually from smoking, and more than 20 percent of high school students report having used vaping products. More than 80 percent of teens who have used a tobacco product started with a flavored product such as mint or menthol. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has reported three vaping-related deaths to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Massachusetts, smoking is estimated to cost more than $4 billion in direct healthcare costs.
The bill will now go to the Senate.