Mass. Senate Votes to Ban Flavored Tobacco, Plastic Bags

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The Massachusetts Senate voted Wednesday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vapes. Senators also voted to ban plastic bags from being given out when shoppers check out at retail stores.

The tobacco bill, which passed 32-6, also imposes a tax on vaping products.

Gov. Charlie Baker has implemented a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products amid a series of illnesses across the country. Three people in the state have died after vaping.

Proponents say the legislation would save lives and stop young people from getting hooked.

"We know our teenagers are attracted to flavors, whether that be menthol traditional cigarettes, or cotton candy e-cigarettes, and we know by prohibiting the sale of all flavors, we will stop teens from experimenting with and getting addicted to nicotine products," said Democratic Sen. Jason Lewis.

But convenience store owners say it would hurt business.

"This bill and the one in the House goes well beyond youth vaping and captures menthol and mint tobacco products, which has very little youth appeal and are not part of the vaping epidemic," said Jonathan Shaer of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association.

The House has already passed its version of the bill. If it is signed into law, it would be the strictest state-level ban on flavored tobacco in the country.

The Senate also passed a statewide plastic bag ban. More than 100 communities already have a similar law in effect but the bill would require stores to use paper or reusable bags instead of plastic ones. A 10-cent fee would be required to purchase paper bags in an effort to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags instead.

Small businesses would be exempt from charging the fees until January 2022. The move comes as an effort to be more environmentally friendly.

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