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Massachusetts Governor Signs Flavored Tobacco Ban Bill

The following is an update from the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) sourced through their November 27th online bulletin. Reposted with permission.

Today, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed House Bill 4196 into law.  This state bill enacts the following new provisions:

  • Prohibits the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products including flavored smokeless tobacco, flavored cigars, flavored pipe tobacco, flavored hookah tobacco, flavored electronic cigarettes, and flavored vapor products.
  • Imposes a new tax of 75% of the wholesale price on electronic cigarettes.
  • Restricts the sale of vapor electronic cigarette products with a nicotine content greater than 35 milligrams per milliliter to adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars.
  • Bans the on-line sale of flavored tobacco products to consumers in the State of Massachusetts.
  • Increases the fines on a retailer that sells tobacco products to a minor from $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation, and $300 for a third violation to $1,000 for a first violation, $2,000 for a second violation, and $5,000 for a third violation.

The new law allows non-age-restricted stores such as convenience stores, service stations, grocery stores, liquor stores and corner markets to sell non-menthol cigarettes, all other tobacco products so long as they do not have a “characterizing flavor,” and tobacco-flavored electronic cigarettes.  “Characterizing flavor” is defined in the law as follows:

“Characterizing flavor”, is a distinguishable taste or aroma, other than the taste or aroma of tobacco, imparted or detectable before or during consumption of a tobacco product, including, but not limited to, a taste or aroma relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, menthol, mint, wintergreen, herb or spice; provided, however, that no tobacco product shall be determined to have a characterizing flavor solely because of the provision of ingredient information or the use of additives or flavorings that do not contribute to the distinguishable taste or aroma of the product.

Effective Dates:  The ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarette and vapor products and the new fines on retailers for sales of tobacco products to minors go into effect immediately.  This means that retailers need to remove flavored electronic cigarette and flavored vapor products from store shelves today.  The ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products goes into effect on June 1, 2020.