Convenience stores across Massachusetts are planning to close for the day Wednesday as store owners protest proposed regulations that would take menthol cigarettes off their shelves.
Frank Marte plans to close, temporarily, all five of the stores he owns, including Caballeros Market in Dorchester. He said any ban would be catastrophic for his business. Menthol cigarettes make up roughly 30% of his sales.
"It's going to hurt convenience stores, our community, the city and the entire state," Marte said.
Marte and other convenience store owners argue the vaping crisis should not be an excuse to ban products that have nothing to do with it. But public health advocates say all tobacco use, not just vaping, is hurting young people and needs to be addressed.
A bill on Beacon Hill would ban all flavored tobacco, including mint and menthol. Separately, the Boston Public Health Commission is considering a regulation that would restrict mint and menthol to adult-only tobacco shops in the city.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told NBC10 Boston Tuesday that he supports putting the vaping products in adult-only shops, but is waiting to comment further until after a public hearing on the issue happens on Thursday.
"I'm going to wait and see what people have to say on the menthol cigarettes," Walsh said.
Walsh added that he understands the concerns of the store owners, but encouraged them to lobby instead of closing for the day.
Marte said he will do whatever it takes.
"I hope that they do pay attention to us, because this is a critical moment for convenience stores," he said.
The convenience store owners will rally at the Massachusetts State House at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. They also plan to pack the public hearing before the Boston Public Health Commission on Thursday.