Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation on Wednesday that bars the sale of flavored nicotine vaping products, a measure that supersedes an existing but temporary ban on the products.
Baker imposed the temporary ban in September during an outbreak of vaping-related deaths and illnesses, and it was set to expire Dec. 24.
The new law will be enforced beginning Dec. 11 and calls for flavored vaping products to be sold and consumed only in licensed smoking bars. It also mandates a 75 percent excise tax on all e-cigarette equipment and requires state health insurers, including Medicaid, to cover tobacco cessation programs. It also includes a ban on menthol cigarettes, beginning next June.
The law makes Massachusetts the first state to enact a permanent, statewide ban on vaping products, and effectively ends their sale in convenience stores and similar locations. Other states have enacted similar temporary bans.
"The decision we made to put the ban in place in the first place was not an easy one, but the public health issues associated with this and the lack of an answer with respect to what was actually causing these injuries and these deaths in the end made this, from our point of view, the right call," the Republican governor said at Wednesday's signing ceremony. "I think we did the right thing on this one."
Convenience store owners were critical of the move.
Jonathan Shaer of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association said it will cost the state "hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue."
The state's Public Health Council will meet on Dec. 11 to consider regulations, including the posting of signage at vaping shops to warn customers of health dangers and strengthening enforcement by allowing inspections at retail locations.