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With Smokers and Vapers Facing Greater Risk from COVID-19, Massachusetts Must Not Delay Ban on Flavored Tobacco Products

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 28, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With health experts warning that smokers and vapers are at greater risk of severe complications from COVID-19, Massachusetts must reject efforts to delay implementation of the state’s historic law prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. The middle of a lung disease pandemic is absolutely the worst time to delay necessary action to protect our kids from addictive tobacco products that harm the lungs. Now more than ever, Massachusetts’ priority should be to protect the health and lungs of kids, not the special interests of those who want to continue selling flavored tobacco products that addict, sicken and kill far too many.

The law is slated to go into effect June 1, and the state should do nothing to delay its implementation. Store owners couldn’t be more wrong in arguing that this law is reckless or that they deserve a “lifeline” to keep selling harmful and addictive tobacco products. It’s the store owners who are being reckless in fighting to delay a law that will protect the lungs and health of Massachusetts kids and citizens, and it is the states’ citizens who deserve a lifeline that will protect them from the harms of smoking and vaping at this critical time.

It’s as if these tobacco retailers don’t realize they’re in the business of destroying lungs. It literally takes your breath away. It makes the word “hypocrisy” feel feeble.

The coronavirus attacks the lungs, and behaviors that weaken the lungs put individuals at greater risk. The harmful impact of smoking on the lungs is well documented, and there is growing evidence that vaping can harm lung health as well. Earlier this month, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a warning to the public about the potential increased dangers and risks associated with smoking and vaping. She said, “The threat of COVID-19 further highlights the dangers that e-cigarettes pose, especially to our young people. Combating the youth vaping crisis has never been more important, and we want the public to understand the heightened risks associated with smoking and vaping during this pandemic.”

Massachusetts cannot afford to delay implementing this new law when there is mounting concern among public health experts that smoking and vaping can worsen the effects of COVID-19. Convenience stores should not be allowed to exploit a lung health crisis to push products that harm your lungs – especially products often sold in kid-friendly flavors like mint, menthol, tropical fusion, cherry and banana smash. (Fortunately, the prohibition on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes is already in effect.)

We urge policymakers to do all they can to help more smokers and vapers quit and to prevent kids from ever starting to use tobacco products, including by implementing and enforcing the Massachusetts law prohibiting all flavored tobacco products. The coronavirus pandemic should serve as a wakeup call to make our lungs healthier now and for the future.