Massachusetts Medical Society: Testimony in Support an Act Regulating Flavored Tobacco Products and An Act to Ban Smoking in Certain Public Places

Testimony in Support an Act Regulating Flavored Tobacco Products and An Act to Ban Smoking in Certain Public Places

The Massachusetts Medical Society wishes to be recorded in support of H.1902 and S.1279, identical bills to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and other vape products.  

Flavors make it easier for kids to start using tobacco products.  They look harmless and familiar to kids while hiding the bad taste of tobacco.  Menthol has the additional quality of soothing the irritation of combustible cigarettes, which is why so many young people start smoking using menthol cigarettes. 

Flavors motivate kids to use e-cigarettes.  According to a report from the CDC and FDA, almost a third of the middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes in 2016 said the availability of flavors was a main reason they did. The FDA, in a 2018 press release, asserts that, tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. Combustible cigarettes, when used as intended, cause the overwhelming majority of tobacco-related disease and are responsible for the death of half of all long-term users. 

Young people use flavored tobacco products at high rates.  According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the number of middle and high school students currently using e-cigarettes rose to 3.6 million in 2018 - 1.5 million more children than in 2017. Menthol cigarettes, which includes mint, spearmint, and wintergreen, are at least as dangerous as other cigarettes, and are popular flavors among young people, and they are one of the most popular JUUL flavors among youth.

Menthol makes it harder to quit using tobacco.  Menthol cigarettes are more addictive and may be more dangerous. Studies from the FDA and other scientific entities conclude that menthol cigarettes are associated with increased nicotine dependence and reduced success in smoking cessation. In 2009, the federal government banned the sale of flavored cigarettes but bowed to tobacco industry pressure and created an exemption for menthol.  It’s time to right that wrong and remove menthol products from our shelves.

The statistics pointing to the benefits of protecting young people from tobacco are compelling.  Over 90% of adult smokers started before they were eighteen years old. 80% of youth smokers will become adult smokers and one-half of adult smokers will die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases. Without prevention policies, 103,000 Massachusetts kids alive today will die from smoking. Tobacco and nicotine use costs Massachusetts more than $4 billion annually in healthcare costs.

The following bills are also consistent with MMS policy and are supported by the Society:   

  • H.1900, An Act to Protect Youth from the Harms of Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products (Gouveia)

This bill would restrict the sale and distribution of tobacco products to adult-only retail tobacco stores or smoking bars.

  • H.1929, An Act to Ban Smoking in Certain Public Places (Kafka)

This bill would expand the current prohibitions on smoking to include outdoor pedestrian-only public gathering venues such as Faneuil Hall, the Boston Common and the Public Garden, to mention a few Boston based venues.  

  • H.3778, An Act Relative to the Sale of Flavored Vaping Products (Nangle)

This bill would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products to tobacco stores, places with an alcohol beverage license, or a smoking bar.  The sale of flavored tobacco products would be prohibited in any location where a minor can legally enter.  

These bills will improve health and save lives by restricting the sale of tobacco products and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke. 

The MMS urges the Committee on Public Health to favorably report out H.1900, H.1902/S.1279, H.1929 and H.3778.

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