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Boston Health Officials Consider New Restrictions On Flavored Tobacco Products

Vape shops in Massachusetts are shutting down in response to Gov. Charlie Baker's ban. (Steven Senne/AP)
Vape shops in Massachusetts are shutting down in response to Gov. Charlie Baker's ban. (Steven Senne/AP)
This article is more than 1 year old.

Sales of flavored tobacco products may soon be further restricted in Boston. The city’s Public Health Commission is considering a proposal that would limit sales of mint, wintergreen and menthol nicotine and tobacco products to adult-only tobacco retailers.

“The mayor believes real specifically we have to do more to restrict and take these products out of the hands of young people,” said Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of health and human services. “So this restriction and changing it would help make a difference in our area.”

Boston restricted the sale of other flavored tobacco products to adult-only tobacco retailers in 2015, but mint and menthol products were not included. Martinez credits those restrictions for a sharp reduction in youth use of e-cigarettes from 2015 to 2017, the last year for which numbers are available.

But Martinez is concerned about the national increase in youth smoking, especially vaping, and says Boston could experience that as well.

“We feel that with everything we’re seeing in our schools and outside our community centers, we feel that we’re going to see this increase come,” Martinez said. “So we’re trying to cut it off before it happens and further impacts young people in the community.”

There are some 750 Boston retailers who can now sell tobacco and nicotine products in the city, according to Martinez. Of those, only about 60 are adult-only tobacco retailers.

The Boston Public Health Commission will take public comments on the proposal and hold a public hearing on Nov. 7.

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Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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