Stores to close in protest of potential menthol ban  

SHNS photoConvenience store owners from across the state plan to rally Wednesday in front of the Statehouse to protest a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes.

BOSTON — Hundreds of convenience stores plan to close midday on Wednesday as store owners rally to oppose a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes and to "demonstrate the critical role they play providing vital resources to communities," organizers said.

Members of the Boston Convenience Store Owners Association and other independent stores across the state — about 1,000 of them in total, according to organizers — on Monday posted notices informing customers of the closures and explaining "the risks associated with such a ban including the failure of proposed bans to prevent minors from accessing and using tobacco, racial inequality, food security, and crime."

The association plans a rally on the steps in front of the Statehouse at noon on Wednesday.

The conversation around banning flavored tobacco and vaping products has put a spotlight on the question of banning menthol cigarettes. Retailers have mounted a campaign that included a rally last week on City Hall Plaza featuring about 100 store owners and a retired federal law enforcement official.

The Ways and Means committees of both branches are reviewing legislation (H 4089/S 2357) based on a bill originally filed by Sen. John Keenan of Quincy and Rep. Danielle Gregoire of Marlborough to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including mentholated cigarettes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, menthol is a chemical compound found naturally in peppermint and other similar plants. It's used in cigarettes to create a cooling sensation in the throat and airways during inhalation, making the cigarette smoke feel less harsh. 

Legislative leaders have mostly avoided saying whether they view menthol as a flavor that ought to be banned. But public health advocates have argued that a flavor ban would be ineffective if it doesn't address menthols. 

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