MASSACHUSETTS: Maura Healey calls for tax on e-cigs and banning vaping flavors

Read full article at the Boston Herald
Author: ALEXI COHAN | | Boston HeraldPUBLISHED: April 10, 2019 at 9:15 pm | UPDATED: April 11, 2019 at 4:47 am

Attorney Genera Maura Healey speaks during a New England Council event on April 10, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Attorney General Maura Healey called Wednesday for banning flavored vaping products and taxing e-cigarettes to crack down on unsafe teen smoking habits in a speech before the New England Council.

“The reason I’m raising this is because this is a really big deal right now in schools and for parents around the state,” said Healey, as she joined local business leaders to talk about the work of her office. “I think it’s important that we update our law to address and try to curb this epidemic.”

Healey, who is currently investigating the vaping company Juul Labs over youth-centric marketing practices, said e-cigarettes are being used beyond their intended purpose of helping adults to quit smoking combustible cigarettes.

“We have kids who are sleeping with vaping devices under their pillow at night,” Healey said.

Earlier this month, Healey called out Juul Labs after learning former Attorney General Martha Coakley recently took a full-time job with the vaping giant.

Over the past year, Healey has worked aggressively to combat predatory marketing practices by vaping companies. In addition to her investigation into Juul Labs, she has sent cease and desist letters to shut down online e-cigarette retailers selling to minors.

“Just because something is legal for adults doesn’t mean that it’s safe,” Healey said.

“Nicotine in these products is highly addictive and it’s not good for developing minds, lungs or brains of 12-, 13- or 14-year-olds,” she said.

The attorney general also cited pages from the big tobacco playbook, saying vaping companies are following suit by using “cute mascots” and “cartoon characters” in marketing materials.

Juul Labs spokesman Ted Kwong said, “We are committed to preventing youth access of JUUL products, and no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try a JUUL product. We cannot fulfill our mission to provide the world’s 1 billion adult smokers with a true alternative to combustible cigarettes if youth use continues unabated.”

Kwong said Juul suspended distribution of certain flavors as of November of last year and strengthened the age verification system on its website.

Healey’s speech came just hours before House leaders released an annual budget plan that did not include Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposal to tax e-cigarettes and wholesale vaping products.