The epidemic of teen vaping has some Massachusetts lawmakers calling for a statewide ban on flavored tobacco products, but not everyone is on board with their plan.
Those in favor say the flavors are fueling nicotine addiction among young people and the state should take steps to address it. The lawmakers made their case at a packed hearing in front of the state’s public health committee Monday.
“The bottom line is these companies are doing nothing but making money. It’s time for us to act and protect the public,” Rep. Danielle Gregoire of Marlborough said.
Before the hearing, a group of teenagers spoke in support of the ban. Matt Murphy, a rising junior at UMass Lowell, was one of the speakers. He said he became addicted to JUUL, one of the leading electronic cigarette brands, when he was a junior in high school.
“Quitting was extremely difficult for me. I tried almost 10 times before I was successful. I was so addicted,” Murphy said.
Those opposing the ban include smokers who said they use vapes while trying to quit regular cigarettes. Store owners also said it would unfairly impact their business without solving the problem.
“If you stop us from selling it, you’re not going to stop online retailers and kids are going to get it either way,” Janesh Patel said, who owns a convenience store in Bridgewater.
JUUL said their product exists to help adult smokers switch off cigarettes. While they do not support a blanket ban like the bill is proposing, the company said it is committed to keeping it out of the hands of young people.
However, young people like Murphy said more needs to be done.
“It is so pervasive. It’s everywhere,” Murphy said. “And addicted kids become addicted adults.”
Several Massachusetts towns have already instituted their own bans related to e-cigarettes and those proposing the statewide ban said it is time to make it uniform.
“If we fail to make it happen, how are we going to look the next generation in the face and say that we let them down,” Senator John Keenan of Quincy said.
If the bill makes it out of committee, lawmakers hope to bring it to a vote by the end of the year.