As a member of Tobacco Free Mass, a coalition of various organizations throughout the state advocating for stricter controls of tobacco products in the state, Atrius Health applauds members of the Joint Committee on Public Health who recently released a comprehensive tobacco bill (S 2152).
The bill, which includes components of eight tobacco bills filed this session, builds on actions already taken at the local level across many Massachusetts communities. The measure has support from a number of key legislators including Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, both of whom have introduced bills to regulate electronic cigarettes. In addition, a number of public health advocacy organizations, including Tobacco Free Mass, have been vocal advocates for stronger laws.
Massachusetts has lagged behind the rest of the country in prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, with over 40 other states having already banned the devices to under-aged residents. We applaud members of the Public Health Committee for taking on this important issue as electronic cigarettes in particular grow increasingly popular among young people nationwide.
If enacted, Massachusetts would be the only state other than Hawaii to raise its age for sale of tobacco products to 21. A handful of states have increased the age for tobacco sales to 19.
Among the provisions of the legislation include the following:
The bill (S 2152) is now in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. If enacted, the bill would take effect as soon as it is signed by the governor, although the higher smoking age would not apply to people who turn 18 by September 1st of this year. The grandfathering would end on September 1, 2019, when individuals will need to be 21 years of age to buy tobacco.
Use of e-cigarettes in particular is growing at an alarming rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the annual Youth Tobacco Survey reported that the use of these devices among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, with 13% of high school students stating they use electronic cigarettes.
The tobacco industry continues to target our youth with their new, cheap, sweet, and easy-to-get products that are not covered by current regulations. The lack of stronger laws limiting availability of tobacco products sends the wrong message to youth that these products are safe.
In consideration of all these risks, Atrius Health strongly encourages the quick passage of S2152 as an important public health initiative to keep our patients and the citizens of the Commonwealth healthier.