Massachusetts vapers dodged a bullet Thursday as the State Senate sponsor of a flavor ban withdrew his amendment minutes before a vote in the face of opposition from vaping consumers and vendors.
The amendment to the proposed Tobacco 21 law would have prohibited sales of flavored e-liquid — either in bottles or pods and cartridges — much like the flavor bans passed in San Francisco and recently proposed in Chicago.
The amendment to the Tobacco 21 bill was filed just two days before the scheduled vote, and the sponsor hoped it would ride to success along with the extremely popular ban on tobacco sales to under-21’s. The flavor ban amendment bypassed the usual committee process and no opportunity for public comment was scheduled.
However, vaping advocates helped mobilize consumers and business owners in the state. American Vaping Association president Gregory Conley posted a Facebook message about the proposal two nights before, and CASAA followed with a call to action the next day.
Calls and emails from vapers forced the amendment’s sponsor, Sen. John Keenan of Quincy, to withdraw his legislation. That didn’t stop him from making a long, fact-free speech about the horrors of teen e-cigarette use before the bill was voted on by the full Senate.
The flavor ban will probably be back soon. But Sen. Keenan’s last-minute sneak attack on vape sales, and the vapers who mobilized to stop it, illustrate a fact that isn’t repeated often enough: vaping advocates stop more bad laws than get passed. We tend to focus on the high-profile losses — San Francisco, the California tobacco tax, the Deeming Rule, the Nicopure lawsuit — but most of the anti-vaping legal action is in states and cities, and determined vapers and business owners have defeated (or stopped before they gained momentum) many taxes, restrictions, and bans. Just last week the New York State Vapor Association and other advocates prevented a flavor ban from coming to a vote in New York.
The bill that passed the Massachusetts Senate prohibits sales of all tobacco products (including vapes) to those under 21. It also bans sales (including vapes) in pharmacies, and makes vaping illegal anywhere smoking is prohibited. The vote was 33-3 in favor of the law. The bill will now be reconciled in a conference committee with the already-passed House version, then sent to the governor to be signed into law.
The Tobacco 21 movement has been especially successful in Massachusetts, with more than 175 cities and counties already prohibiting sales to those under 21. In fact, Massachusetts represents more than half of all the cities across the country that have passed Tobacco 21 laws. If the governor signs the bill, Massachusetts will become the sixth state to pass a Tobacco 21 law, joining California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon.
On the same day, an hour north of Boston, Dover became the first new Hampshire city to pass a Tobacco 21 law, apparently proving that the state’s “Live Free or Die” motto has its limits.