Keenan has filed a bill to limit the sale of flavored tobacco products to adult-only smoking bars

HOLBROOK, MA – On Tuesday, March 5, State Senator John Keenan met with members of the Holbrook Middle-High School Civics Club to discuss the increase in teen vaping across Massachusetts. The Holbrook Civics Club has been working to raise awareness about the health risks associated with e-cigarettes and vape products such as JUUL, and joined Senator Keenan to discuss legislation that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products statewide. 

Current e-cigarette use among middle and high school students in the U.S. increased dramatically between 2017 and 2018. According to data from the FDA, 1.5 million more students used e-cigarettes in 2018 than in 2017, accounting for a 78 percent increase among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students nationwide. In Massachusetts, 41 percent of high school students reported ever using e-cigarettes, more than three times the number of adults who use them.

Senator Keenan and Holbrook students discussed concerns that the sale of flavored tobacco products, including the sale of flavors for vaping devices and e-cigarettes, has significantly contributed to increased tobacco use among young people.

“There is a direct connection between the marketing and sale of flavored tobacco products and the increase in vaping among young people today,” said State Senator John Keenan. “Middle schools and high schools across the Commonwealth, and indeed across the country, have seen the rate of young people using e-cigarettes skyrocket in the last few years. These courageous students are standing up to the tobacco companies targeting their peers, and I am proud to stand with them in this fight.”

Senator Keenan filed a bill that would limit the sale of flavored tobacco products – including cigars, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, hookah, and snuff – to adult-only smoking bars.

“Recent studies show that kids are attracted to e-cigarettes due to the variety of flavors and the perception that they are less harmful than cigarettes,” said Senator Keenan. “Young people are convinced that because it doesn’t taste or smell like tobacco, it can’t be bad for them. In reality, one JUUL pod can have as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, and consequently, young people are becoming severely addicted very quickly. This bill would restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products to adult-only smoking bars like hookah lounges, limiting the power companies like JUUL have to target our kids.”

The Holbrook Middle-High School Civics Club has been working to raise awareness. The group has successfully passed tobacco flavor restrictions in Holbrook and is hoping to have more success in neighboring towns like Weymouth and Easton. The students have also been working with the Department of Public Health as youth advocates for flavored tobacco restrictions.

“I am a sixth grader who lives in a world  that tries to convince me and other kids around my age to vape and that flavored tobacco is okay,” said Holbrook sixth grader Joshua Hankins. “It is always right there in different stores I go into. I hate the fact that store owners decide to put vape juice right where kids can see, mostly near candy and ice cream. I am proud we got a flavor restriction in Holbrook and hope that we can enforce greater restrictions across Massachusetts!”

One Holbrook High School senior and Civics Club member, Sarah Ryan, advocated for flavor restrictions at a press conference in Washington D.C. alongside United States Surgeon General Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams last year. Sarah and others from the Civics Club are also part of the 84 Movement, a statewide organization of young people encouraging others to stand up to the tobacco and vaping industries.

“Throughout my high school career, it’s been clear to me that flavored tobacco products are incredibly attractive to my peers. This is intentional,” said Holbrook senior Sarah Ryan. “The tobacco and vaping industries have engineered over 8,000 flavors, from Mango to Unicorn Milk, that are clearly meant to target youth. In Holbrook, we worked to pass a flavor restriction to combat this, but local policies can only do so much. I’m encouraged by Senator Keenan’s bill and excited by the potential it has to protect my generation from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine.”

“I am so proud of these students for becoming involved in an issue that is effecting their generation at such an alarming rate,” said Mary Clougher, a teacher and head of the Civics Club at Holbrook Middle-High School. “The commitment and maturity displayed by these students is incredible.”

“It’s the tobacco play-book, the cigarette play-book, all over again,” said State Senator John Keenan. “E-cigarette companies like JUUL are aggressively targeting young people with flavored products. We are going to bring a lot of attention to this and these students have been out front on the issue since day one. We are going to partner with students in Holbrook and others who are concerned about our kids’ safety to ban these products in MA.”