By Pat Warren

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — It’s straight tobacco or nothing under a bill that would ban Maryland retailers from selling any flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.

The outbreak of illnesses linked to e-cigarettes has put new emphasis on the dangers of smoking and the sale of flavored tobacco products that target the young.

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Attorney General Brian Frosh considers the marketing of vaping products to children undeniable, showing several examples during a news conference Thursday.

“On the left, to my left, you see an old cigarette advertisement for Kool, Kool cigarettes. On the right, this is a JUUL ad that’s almost identical,” Frosh said. “They both target children.”

Under a bill heard in a House committee Thursday, the state would ban all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes, flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco — virtually anything that adds flavor to make tobacco taste good.

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The bill has the support of a number of groups, including the American Cancer Society and the Maryland NAACP, with the latter saying tobacco companies target low-income and underserved communities.

“We stand in solidarity with these groups and legislators because Big Tobacco has left a bad taste in our mouth and flavors won’t cover it up,” said Kobi Little with the NAACP.

Opponents of the bill testified before the House Economic Matters Committee that suppliers, distributors and retailers stand to lose millions with the ban and that the state would lose millions in tax revenue.

The change comes as the Food and Drug Administration’s nationwide ban on flavored cartridge-based e-cigarette products goes into effect.

Last month, the agency announced companies must stop manufacturing, distributing and selling more of the flavored cartridge-based e-cigarettes.

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Businesses must comply by May 12 or face a fine.