Over 150 cancer patients, volunteers, and lawmakers rallied in the Massachusetts State House on March 28 to lobby for multiple anti-tobacco bills going through the legislative process in the state government.
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, or ACS CAN, organized the rally to support legislation that bans flavored tobacco and vape products in Massachusetts retail stores, and a bill that raises taxes on the same products.
Sen. John Keenan, D-Norfolk and Plymouth, sponsored the proposal banning the sale of flavored tobacco and vape products and said he filed the bill with the public health committee where it still needs reviewal. The ban would prohibit the sale of flavors such as mint, menthol, and mango.
In an interview with the Beacon, the senator said he proposed the measure after hearing alarming stories about children getting addicted to nicotine through vape products.
“Kids are being sold this product with the idea that it tastes like candy or mint and they have no idea how much nicotine [is] in these products,” Keenan said. “They get a false sense that they’re not dangerous. It’s not smoking, so how bad can it be?”
Keenan said he partnered with ACS CAN to work on the legislation because he wished lawmakers made nicotine addiction a bigger priority for his generation.
“We have an obligation to our kids,” he said in his speech at the rally. “It’s time we say to the big tobacco industry, the nicotine industry, ‘You are not going to take another generation. We are going to fight you every step of the way.’”
The tax legislation would increase the cigarette tax by $1, the cigar tax by 40 percent, and create a 70 percent tax on vaping paraphernalia, Marc Hymovitz, director of government relations for ACS CAN in Massachusetts, said in an interview with the Beacon.
“There are decades of evidence to show that one of the most effective ways to get folks to quit using tobacco and prevent kids from starting is to increase the price,” he said.
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