With a new Massachusetts law banning the sale of menthol, mint and wintergreen tobacco products scheduled to take effect June 1, a local convenience-store association is warning thousands of Bay State smokers could head to New Hampshire for cigarettes in spite of stay-at-home orders in both states.
According to the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA), there are an estimated 300,000 menthol smokers in Massachusetts, “many of whom will travel over state lines” to purchase menthol products once they are banned in the Bay State but still on shelves in the Granite State.
“The prohibition on the sale of menthol, mint and wintergreen tobacco was always ill-advised, but implementing it now — in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis — will result in severe consequences nobody could have foreseen a few months ago,” said Jonathan Shaer, executive director of the NECSEMA, in a statement.
“While public health officials are rightly discouraging interstate travel to slow the spread of the virus, this ban will leave hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts adults with little choice but to leave the state to buy tobacco products they’ve bought here legally for decades.”
“Whether you live in New Hampshire or Massachusetts, you’re healthier at home, and we expect Massachusetts residents will continue to abide by Governor (Charlie) Baker’s stay-at-home order,” said Gov. Chris Sununu.
Shaer argues rather than give up smoking and adopt a healthy lifestyle — one of the arguments made by the ban’s proponents before it became law — Massachusetts residents are more likely to drive to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maine, and especially New Hampshire, where border retailers have reported a surge in vape sales since a Sept. 25 ban took effect.
“New Hampshire vape sales from the past several months have increased 1,000% and retailers in that state are expecting an even greater increase when Massachusetts bans menthol cigarettes,” Shaer wrote in an April 17 letter to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. “We leave these adults little choice but to travel at a time when you have strongly discouraged it.”
The Massachusetts convenience store industry sent a letter to Baker and Massachusetts legislators seeking a delay in implementing the ban until June 1, 2021.