There have been many cries in recent weeks for the easing of some state regulations to keep struggling operations -- especially small businesses -- afloat during a time of historic economic uncertainty.

There may be an argument for loosening or delaying some rules, and lawmakers and the Baker administration will have some tough choices to make in the weeks and months ahead.

One easy decision, however, would be to reject calls to delay the state’s ban on flavored tobacco products.

The ban on everything from menthol cigarettes to wintergreen tobacco is set to go into effect June 1. Mentholated vaping products would be banned as well.  Industry groups representing convenience stores want to delay the ban for a year, saying their clients can’t afford the lost revenue.

The New England Convenience Stores & Energy Marketers Association says its stores are already hurting, with overall sales down 30 to 50%, gasoline sales down 60% and Lottery sales 20%.

However, it is important to remember Gov. Charlie Baker and the state Legislature worked together to enact the ban in the middle of an earlier health crisis. Flavored tobacco and vaping products were clearly being marketed to underage smokers, creating a new generation of addicts and spawning a myriad of related respiratory illnesses that are yet to be fully understood. 

It is difficult to understand how anyone would think allowing that damage to continue is a good idea during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The middle of a lung disease pandemic is absolutely the worst time to delay necessary action to protect our kids from addictive tobacco products that harm the lungs,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

He’s right. The evidence is clear that smoking contributes to the underlying health conditions that make COVID-19 much more deadly.

“COVID-19 is a lung infection that aggressively attacks the lungs and even leaves lung cells and tissue dead,” Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, wrote earlier this month. “While it’s important to prevent getting COVID-19 in the first place, it’s also essential that we do all we can to keep our lungs healthy to avoid the worst effects of the disease.”

 

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