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Convenience Stores To Close In Protest Of Proposed Menthol Cigarette Ban

BOSTON (CBS) - A proposed ban on menthol cigarettes in Massachusetts has some convenience store owners worried about their livelihood.

"The ban on menthol cigarettes sends a message to all blacks and minorities in Boston that they aren't smart enough to choose, but white people are. Thanks but no thanks," said Corneal Allen of the Boston Convenience Store Owners Association.

Humayun Morshed's Dorchester convenience store is one of hundreds across the state closing for the day Wednesday so owners can protest at a rally at the State House.

"We're going to lose a lot of employment," Morshed said of the proposed ban. "This is 50% of our revenue and definitely our store would have to be closed."

The ban would include all flavored cigarettes, including menthol and e-cigarette products. That would leave some store shelves bare, and some smokers upset, like Bobby Cresta. "It's infringing on rights that have been in place for quite a while."

In a statement sent to WBZ-TV, Monica Lupi, the Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission said, "The marketing and retail practices of tobacco companies ... to infiltrate our communities of color with menthol tobacco products are unacceptable, and the fact that similar tactics are being used now to target our kids with vaping products demands action."

According to the CDC, African-Americans are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than white smokers. According to the anti-smoking group Truth Initiative, nearly 9 in 10 African-American smokers use menthol cigarettes.

If passed, a store caught selling menthol cigarettes could face a $200 fine for its first offense, $400 for its second, along with a 7 day tobacco product sale suspension.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the proposal as early as November 20th.

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