BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced the passage of comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The legislation was signed into law by the Governor on July 27, 2018.
Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual health care costs to the Commonwealth. Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, nicotine has harmful health impacts on the developing brain, and 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18.
“The passage of this legislation is an important step forward in reducing youth tobacco and nicotine product use here in our Commonwealth,” said Senator Moore. “While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply and this new law seeks to address that.”
Among its provisions, the newly-signed law raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21. The legislation also adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law and prohibits the sale of tobacco products in health care institutions, including pharmacies.
While nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes may sometimes help some nicotine-addicted adults to stop smoking traditional cigarettes, they present a significant new threat to the health and wellbeing of young people who have not previously used tobacco products.
To directly target youth use, this legislation increases the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This is a proven and effective strategy to reduce youth tobacco use because it removes legally purchased tobacco products from high school social networks. The Institute of Medicine projects that increasing the age from 18 to 21 will reduce overall tobacco use in a population by 12% – the equivalent of 150,000 Massachusetts tobacco users.
Meanwhile, youth use of e-cigarettes has grown alarmingly, becoming a pervasive presence in our high schools. The provisions in this bill build upon the regulations promulgated in 2016 by the Attorney General, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.
This legislation also prohibits the sale of tobacco products in health care institutions, including pharmacies, a policy already in place in more than 160 of our cities and towns, and a practice already adopted by firms like CVS.
Other provisions included in the bill include new authority granted to the Department of Public Health to regulate new, emerging tobacco products; and language requiring the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study the current tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission.
Many cities and towns have enacted policies to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction that go beyond current state and federal laws and regulations, creating a patchwork of different laws across the Commonwealth that can confound retailers, distributors, consumers and public health officials. This legislation will provide a uniform statewide set of rules that protect youth and simplify the interaction between our state and local laws.
The text of the newly-signed law, codified as Chapter 157 of the Acts of 2018, is available on the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.