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Massachusetts Vape Flavour Ban Fuelled ‘Meteoric’ Rise in Black Market Products

By Patrick Griffin 16th June 2022 3 Mins

It has been over two years since Massachusetts imposed America’s ‘toughest ever ban’ on the sale of flavoured vaping and tobacco products.

Not only did the November 2019 Tobacco Control Law ban all flavours it also imposed a punitive 75 percent excise tax on the few products left untouched.

Both the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids enthusiastically supported the first US permanent state-wide flavour ban, but harm reduction advocates saw the dangers ahead.

Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association, unsuccessfully challenged the ban in court and warned: “Bans don’t work; they never have.”

It may come as little surprise, but Tony was right. The black market in contraband vape products is booming like never before and last year alone, a record 200,000 e-cigarette products were confiscated.

It has been estimated that Massachusetts has lost $10 million in tax revenue as a result of the new black market in vape products.

young man wearing a black hoodie and black cap sits at a table vaping

Americans for Tax Reform, which campaigns for lower, simpler and more transparent taxation, described the increase in bootleg vape products as ‘meteoric’.

Writing on the ATR website, Garrett Smith said: “These laws were passed in denial of scientific studies proving that electronic cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than traditional combustible cigarettes and are the most effective method of getting smokers to quit.

“Massachusetts state legislators also ignored data which shows that regulation on tobacco products is directly correlated with increased rates of tobacco smuggling – a black market industry which the United States Department of Defense has called ‘a threat to national security.’

Americans for Tax Reform has called for Massachusetts to scrap the Tobacco Control Law but said legislators had opted to ‘double down’ on anti-vape laws instead.

Smith added: “Instead of admitting defeat the state of Massachusetts has decided to enact authoritarian measures to enforce a ridiculous law.

“While the effort to crack down on illicit trade is commendable, Massachusetts officials are ultimately being forced to respond to a crisis they themselves created.

“A new law has declared that anyone caught smuggling ENDS from out of state can be fined up to $25,000 and be subject to seizure of vehicles used in smuggling procedures.”

Dating back from the days of Prohibition in the 1920s, there has been clear evidence that bans are not an effective way of modifying behaviour.

Many anti-vaping measures in the US (and elsewhere) are often enacted to help prevent youth vaping.

However, youth smoking rates more than doubled in San Francisco when the city imposed a vape flavour ban in 2019.

Cigarette sales also increased in New England when the states there imposed flavour bans.

Smith wrote: “While legislators may suffer a hit to their pride, it is in the interest of public health, safety, and the state budget that Massachusetts repeal this disastrous prohibition.”


About this author
Patrick Griffin