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Dozens Protest Flavored Tobacco Ban, Vaping Tax

BOSTON (CBS) - Nearly 100 people stood in the rain outside the Massachusetts State House Tuesday to protest a proposed ban on all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. If passed, it would also slap a new 75 percent excise tax on nicotine vaping products.

The protesters chanted "We vote! We vape!"

The CDC says 42 people in 24 states have died from a mysterious lung disease. Three of the cases were Massachusetts residents.

Supporters of the bill say the goal is to keep young people from becoming addicted to nicotine products. The protesters say vaping helped them quit smoking.

"What we want is reasonable legislation and reasonable regulations that keep these products out of teens' hands," said John Nathan of Plymouth. "Protect small businesses and keep options available to smokers."

Protect business owners like Erik Tarvin who says he went from making $1.2 million in vape sales - to now receiving unemployment benefits because his businesses are closed.

"Currently all three stores are closed, I need to lay off nine employees," Tarvin said. "I myself right now am trying to figure things out."

Last week, the House passed the bill by a majority vote. The bill heads to the Senate Wednesday.

In September, Governor Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts regarding vaping, and banned the sale of all vape products for four months.

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