BOSTON – Mayor Marty Walsh announced a proposal for new regulations on the sale of nicotine and tobacco products aimed to discourage the rise of vaping among teenagers on Wednesday night.
The proposal, sponsored by the Boston Public Health Commission, would limit the sale of mint and menthol flavored nicotine products to verified retailers specializing in tobacco products. The announcement comes four years after the city increased the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21 and restricted the sale of non-menthol flavored nicotine products to adult-only tobacco retailers.
"Teen vaping is an epidemic that is particularly alarming because we know that nicotine use at a young age can have the power to lead to a lifelong dependency," said Mayor Walsh in statement. "The data is undeniable in showing that these amendments would save lives. I believe that now is the time to act, and I thank our public health staff for bringing forward a proposal that will ensure Boston has some of the strongest regulations in the country to protect our young people."
The proposal comes in the wake of what some have dubbed a “national vaping crisis” after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 380 hospitalizations and seven deaths linked to the use of e-cigarettes. According to CDC statistics, almost 1 of every 5 high school students (20.8%) reported regular use of e-cigarettes in 2018—an increase from 1.5% in 2011.
While the CDC has indicated their investigation has not yet identified any specific e-cigarette or substance responsible for all cases, some retailers are quick to point out that their business has been affected by the rise in unlicensed black market e-cigarette products.
"Regulatory changes made over the last decade, combined with efforts to build strong partnerships with schools, health centers and other community organizations, have played important roles in reducing smoking among Boston residents," said BPHC Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi regarding the bill. "The marketing and retail practices of tobacco companies that have been used for decades to infiltrate our communities of color with menthol tobacco products are unacceptable, and the fact that similar tactics are being used now to target our kids with vaping products demands action."
In May, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a civil lawsuit against New Jersey-based e-cigarette manufacturer Eonsmoke LLC charging the company with failing to verify the age of online buyers and targeting minors through social media marketing campaigns.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced a similar federal proposal which would ban flavored e-cigarettes altogether. Following the announcement, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a mandate requiring the immediate report of any suspected cases of unexplained e-cigarette or vaping-associated pulmonary disease–the first incident in almost two years where officials require providers to report health conditions to the state.