Vape juices

Happening today:

9:30 a.m. | MASSPIRG students and the Mass. Hunger Free Campus Coalition host "Hunger Free Campus Lobby Day," according to Sen. DiDomenico who plans to speak at the event along with Sen. Lovely, Rep. Vargas and others. | Gardner Auditorium, State House

10 a.m. | Speaker Mariano is the featured guest at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce's Government Affairs Forum, where he could shed light on legislative plans and how he's thinking about tax relief and other issues. | Colonnade Hotel, 120 Huntington Ave., Boston

10:30 a.m. | Mayor Wu and the Worker Empowerment Cabinet join representatives from MassArt and Roxbury Community College to celebrate a $4 million investment to expand Boston's Tuition-Free Community College program. | Massachusetts College of Art and Design - Design and Media Center, 621 Huntington Ave, Boston

1 p.m. | More than 200 young people and adults from across Massachusetts will celebrate Kick Butts Day: Youth Day of Action at the State House for the first time since 2019. | Great Hall, State House

Kids are kicking butts and they’re taking the fight to the halls of the State House.

Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to outright ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol vapes and cigarettes when its law took effect on June 1, 2020.

Lawmakers’ goal was to slash tobacco use, particularly rates of underage smoking that had spiked alongside the rise of vaping. 

Teens appear to be vaping less in years since, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, but youth on Thursday will meet with lawmakers to tell them there’s more work to be done.

Students participating in this year’s Kick Butts Day, sponsored by The 84, a statewide anti-tobacco youth initiative, will lobby lawmakers through an equity lens.

Researchers say tobacco advertising has historically targeted low income communities of color. And products are still finding their way in.

The Bay State’s legal crackdown appears to have set the stage for a booming black market. 

Tobacco seizures are up in Massachusetts, a recent state report found. Sales are up “a significant” amount in border states Rhode Island and New Hampshire, as is apparent cross-state smuggling. Mass officials reported more than 106,000 vaping seizures in fiscal 2021 and 71,000 in fiscal 2022.

New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association Executive Director Peter Brennan said the state’s “failed tobacco policies have robbed the state of millions” in tax dollars while “criminals and petty smugglers are reaping millions” on the illicit market.

Just last month, Attorney General Andrea Cambell’s office announced charges against a pair of men allegedly engaged in a tax evasion scheme involving both marijuana and flavored tobacco vaping products. She calculated lost tax revenues to the tune of $4.8 million.

But despite the the problems facing Massachusetts, a Stanford Medicine report concluded “the best way” to cut tobacco use is keep teens from getting started in the first place, because once someone gets hooked “it’s difficult to quit, even for people who want to.”

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering stricter penalties. One bill proposes raising even higher taxes on the sale of vape products. The 2020 law raised a 75% excise tax on e-cigarettes.
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MBTA watch 🚇

Days since the last derailment, fire, falling debris, or critical incident: 8

Days with localized speed restrictions: 20

Days without “normal” weekday subway service: 281

On Jan. 5, Gov. Healey pledged to hire a new MBTA Transportation Safety Chief within 60 days. It has now been 84 days without the position being filled.
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Tragic timing: Lawmakers commit to gun bill as hundreds rally for reform days after Nashville shooting

Hundreds of mothers and gun control advocates packed the State House to demand stricter gun laws days after a mass shooting at a school in Nashville claimed six lives, including three children. Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem said she is “committed,” and pledged the Legislature would focus on ghost guns, reducing violence through a public health lens by investing in community programs, and making Massachusetts a leader in the collection and analysis of gun data and research, writes Sam Drysdale of State House News Service.

State House News Service | The Boston Herald | The Boston Globe

When it comes to gun reform on the national level, Republicans remain a major hurdle, writes Yvonne Abraham for The Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe

Healey signs first major piece of legislation

Three months after taking office, Gov. Maura Healey signed her first major piece of legislation, a $388.7 million supplemental budget with an additional $740 million in borrowing, writes Matthew Medsger for The Boston Herald. It includes $85 million to bolster the state’s emergency shelter system and a $130 million off-ramp for a pandemic-era boost in federal SNAP benefits that expired this month. It also extends several COVID policies including remote meetings and to-go cocktails for restaurants.

The Boston Herald | State House News Service

MBTA exec in charge of construction who spent little time on site, gets ax 

An MBTA executive in charge of the ailing system’s construction and repair projects who was earning  $275,000 a year, but spending little time on site or in state, no longer works for the agency. James “Jay” Neider spent significant time in Hawaii, the Middle East and Wisconsin. Neider reportedly owns homes in multiple states, including Arizona and Delaware, but none in Massachusetts, writes a three-reporter team for The Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe

Look out: Pedestrian deaths spike by 35% in Massachusetts

The Bay State saw a 35% spike in pedestrian deaths in 2022, when 101 people were killed by vehicles. That’s up from 75 people the prior year, according to a study released Thursday by WalkBoston, a statewide advocacy organization, writes Tonya Alanez for The Boston Globe.

The Boston Globe

Sounding the alarm: Nurses say hospital care on the downslope

Most nurses in Massachusetts believe the quality of hospital care has deteriorated over the past two years, says a Massachusetts Nurses Association survey. The 2023 “State of Nursing” results reveal 85% of nurses agree. Additionally, 53% of union nurses surveyed believe hospitals that rely on travel nurses have worse care.

State House News Service | WCVB

More for immigrants: Mariano pledges more on heels of law allowing licenses for undocumented drivers

House Speaker Ron Mariano took a victory lap for the bill passed last session that makes it possible for undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and said that he’s “confident that we can do even more to make the Commonwealth a more welcoming place for immigrants from all over the world,” in a Wednesday address, writes Sam Doran for State House News Service.

State House News Service

Equal pay for equal work: State police demand more incentive

The union representing State Police troopers is pushing a bill they say will mean “equal pay for equal work.” The union president told Flint McColgan of The Boston Herald that currently, “there is little incentive to become educated in the Massachusetts State Police.” The bill includes incentives for education among troopers, from a 10% pay boost for those with an associate’s degree to a 25% jump for those with a master’s or law degree, according to a SPAM summary.

The Boston Herald

Middle ground: Worcester and suburbs would benefit from East-West rail too

Connecting Boston to the Berkshires via East-West rail could lead to a huge economic boost for Worcester and the rest of central Mass., experts and advocates tell MassLive’s Trea Lavery, especially if the rail connections between Worcester and Boston are expanded in the process.

MassLive

All in the family: Mother, son seeking office in North Attleboro 

One ballot, two generations. Jim Hand of the Sun-Chronicle reports next week’s municipal election in North Attleboro will feature a mother-son duo. Current Town Council member Kathleen Prescott is seeking a seat on the school board, while her 18-year-old son Aidan will be among the 13 candidates hoping to secure one of 9 seats on the town council.

The Sun Chronicle

New Bedford mayor proposes changes to boost housing development, affordability 

Amid a fierce local debate about whether to explore rent control measures, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell has dropped a 33-page plan to make the city more appealing for housing developers, which he said in turn will boost affordability. The New Bedford Light’s Grace Ferguson has details on the plan, which labels rent control talk “misguided.”

New Bedford Light

Opponents of Lee PCB dump gear up for final battle over GE cleanup 

Local officials in Lee and others who want a federal appeals court to overturn the EPA’s approval of a PCB landfill in the Berkshires town are preparing for what could be the final chapter in a decades-long legal battle–and just the beginning of GE’s court-mandated half-billion-dollar cleanup of pollutants in the Housatonic River.

The Berkshire Eagle

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MASSterList editor Erin Tiernan is an award-winning reporter who brings a decade's worth of experience covering state and local politics from the halls of the State House to city streets. Her work can be found in The Boston Herald, The Patriot Ledger, MassLive and Wicked Local. She was the New England Newspaper and Press Association's 2019 Reporter of the Year.