House Votes to Raise Tobacco Sales Age to 21

Rep. Jim Arciero joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that seeks to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction among youth across the Commonwealth. An Act to protect youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction (H.4479) will prohibit the sale of all tobacco, including nicotine delivery products, and other vapor products to individuals under the age of 21. Additionally, the bill expands Massachusetts’ Smoke-Free Workplace Law to include e-cigarettes and vapes, thereby ensuring that all tobacco and vapor products will be banned in establishments where the use of traditional tobacco is currently prohibited.

More than 170 cities and towns in Massachusetts have already raised the minimum sales age for tobacco products to 21 years old. With this legislation, Massachusetts will join five other states who have established a statewide minimum sales age of 21, including California, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, and Oregon. Needham, Mass. pioneered this movement in 2005 by becoming the first municipality in the country to raise the tobacco sales age to 21.

“I am proud to support the next step in our effort to curb tobacco use among children and young adults,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “Our effort will strike a balance of protecting the health of our children, while creating stability for our retailers and not penalizing adult smokers.”    

“Smoking has destroyed the lives of so many in our communities,” Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “At the same time, smoking-related illnesses cost the Massachusetts healthcare system over $4 billion annually. This legislation will stop tobacco and e-cigarette companies from taking advantage of youth and prevent countless more from entering the throes of nicotine addiction.”

“When teens start smoking, studies show that they often become smokers for life,” said Representative Kate Hogan, Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health. “Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction and fall victim every day to the damaging effects nicotine has on the developing brain, heart, and lungs. The legislation passed by the House aims to prevent our kids from starting a dangerous habit that can last a lifetime.”

  • Ban healthcare institutions from selling tobacco products or vapor products;
  • Prohibit the use of tobacco products or vapor products on school grounds and buses and at school-sponsored events;
  • Restrict manufacturers or retailers from distributing free samples of tobacco products in commercial establishments, excluding in retail tobacco stores and smoking bars; and
  • Codify in law the Attorney General’s regulations requiring child-resistant packaging for nicotine substances and containers.

Tobacco and nicotine use remain a leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in the Commonwealth, with more than $4 billion spent annually in Massachusetts on smoking-related healthcare costs. In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that 90 percent of smokers try smoking before age 18 and 75 percent of teen smokers continue to smoke into adulthood. Studies show the most effective way to lower smoking rates is to prevent teenagers from trying tobacco in the first place; the Institute of Medicine released a 2015 study that found that increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products to 21 years old will prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults.

The legislation takes effect December 31, 2018. Individuals who turn 18 before this date would be exempt from the act’s minimum sales age requirement.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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