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Convenience store owners protest proposed ban of menthol cigarettes

“It’s all legal tobacco, and if you want to ban tobacco, why not ban everything?’’

Pratik Patel (center), of Jay's Smoke Shop in Worcester, chanted "Stop the ban!" as convenience store owners rallied in front of the State House Wednesday. –Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Hundreds of convenience store owners throughout Massachusetts shuttered their doors on Wednesday and rallied in front of the State House in opposition to legislation that would limit the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

The protest follows a statewide ban on all vaping products, which were pulled from stores after the widespread diagnosis of vaping-related illnesses that has proven fatal in three cases in Massachusetts.

Wearing T-shirts with slogans like “We Protect Minors,’’ the store owners said the effort to restrict sales is an overreach that jeopardizes the legal sale of tobacco products to adults. Many argued the proposed ban would put them out of business and push the highly regulated sales of flavored tobacco products across state lines, and into the black market.  The Boston Public Health Commission has also proposed restrictions that would limit the sale of mint and menthol nicotine and tobacco products to adult-only tobacco shops.

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