Smoke shop employee concerned about possible ban on flavored tobacco products

Massachusetts

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Asad Afzaal, manager of “Let’s Roll Express” in Fall River, is anxiously waiting to see whether Gov. Charlie Baker approves legislation that would permanently ban all flavored tobacco products statewide.

The Senate voted to pass the bill early Thursday morning, which would ban not only flavored tobacco products but menthol cigarettes as well.

The bill would also place a 75% excise tax on vaping products and require health insurers, including the state’s Medicaid program, to cover tobacco cessation counseling.

Afzaal tells Eyewitness News the ban threatens the shop’s business.

“It’s about almost 60% of our revenue,” he said.

He believes his regular customers will begin purchasing their products out-of-state.

“If it was federal, then we can understand it. It would be all over the U.S. and that’d be fine, we’d all understand. But if we’re going to only do it, then it’s not fair to us,” Afzaal said.

Lawmakers behind the ban say the goal is to prevent young adults from smoking in the first place — and tobacco companies have targeted kids with flavored products for far too long.

If Baker signs the bill into law, flavored e-cigarette products will be banned immediately. Other flavored tobacco products would be banned beginning in July 2020.

There’s no word on whether or when Baker will sign the bill, though lawmakers expect him to.

In September, he declared a public health emergency and ordered a temporary, four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Providence

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