The Massachusetts House voted 126-31 Wednesday to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products and implement a new 75% excise tax on e-cigarettes, restrictions that supporters say will help prevent children and teenagers from becoming addicted to nicotine.
All flavored tobacco, including mint and menthol, in vaping and combustible forms would be forbidden from stores and online in Massachusetts under the House bill. Businesses that violate the new regulations could have their state lottery licenses suspended.
The bill, which now moves to the Senate, also imposes an excise tax on vaping products at 75% of the wholesale price. Under a Rep. Andres Vargas amendment adopted by the House, 30% of the revenue from that new tax — which lawmakers previously estimated would produce $10 million to $15 million per year — will be directed toward a trust fund that communities use for substance abuse prevention.
Supporters of the legislation, which passed with seven Republicans in favor and five Democrats opposed, said the ban and tax will save lives as public health experts warn that sweet and mint flavors and vaping products are driving an increase in youth tobacco use.
"Today, we are clearly communicating to big tobacco companies that while you stole the health and well-being of our parents and grandparents, you cannot have our children," Rep. Marjorie Decker said on the House floor.
Senate leaders have not yet confirmed when they plan to take up the topic, though Senate President Karen Spilka hinted she hopes to see a vote before both branches conclude formal sessions for the year on Nov. 20.
Gov. Charlie Baker in September ordered a temporary ban on vaping products amid concerns over an outbreak of lung illness.