Massachusetts Rethinks Flavored Tobacco and Menthol Ban

Multiple bills seek to carve out exemptions for certain products.

November 09, 2021

Cigarettes and E-Cigs

BOSTON—Massachusetts is looking to change its 2019 tobacco law that banned flavored tobacco in the state, as multiple bills pending before the Public Health Committee attempt to carve out new exemptions, reports WWLP. The proposals were discussed at a hearing last week.

The bills range from resuming sales of menthol cigarettes to authorizing some flavored products that federal regulators cleared for marketing. One pair of bills would rewrite the flavor ban to limit it to e-cigarettes or vaping products, rather than all tobacco products. Its backers aim to undo the prohibition on menthol cigarettes.

Jon Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association, said the attempts at reining in menthols “has failed in whatever goals it had intended for the products.” The ban on flavored tobacco and menthol in the state has pushed consumers to cross state lines into New Hampshire and Rhode Island, which sold a large quantity of tobacco products, including traditional cigarettes and flavored vapes in the 12 months after the Bay State’s prohibition.

“From a retailer’s perspective, this is very difficult to watch as your customers get the products they once bought in your stores by now buying them in Rhode Island, New Hampshire or the guy on the corner,” Shaer said. “It’s particularly hard when the state cannot demonstrate evidence of any positive health-related impact as well.”

Bills before the Public Health Committee would lift the state’s flavored tobacco ban on any tobacco product given a marketing grant order or a modified risk order by the FDA.

Those that approve of the menthol and flavored tobacco ban in Massachusetts say that it helps keep tobacco out of the hands of new, young users.