Massachusetts will soon join communities throughout the nation that have increased the legal smoking age to combat youth smoking. (File photograph)
In an effort to reduce youth smoking rates across the state, The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill this week that increases the legal smoking age across the state to 21 years of age and implements new provision that regulate the sale of e-cigarettes. The legislature also enforces child-resistant packaging and strengthens the regulations around smoking in public areas, particularly schools.
The legislation goes into effect on December 31 and includes a grandfather clause for those individuals who turn 18 before January 1, 2017.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell, who joined her colleagues in this effort, said “This is a commonsense piece of legislation that takes what we have learned about the life long impacts of teenage smoking through decades of research and implements preventative measures to reduce associated life-threatening risks.”
This legislation is part of a national campaign known as “Tobacco 21” operated by a public health nonprofit organization known as the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation. This campaign has received endorsements for national reform from a number of public health organizations including Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and several others.
Although national reform has not yet been implemented, these organizations have seen success across the country at a state level.
As of March 2018, over 170 communities throughout the state have passed Tobacco 21 ordinances including a number of communities throughout the Merrimack Valley.
The City of Methuen’s Board of Health unanimously passed this initiative in 2015 after recognizing the increased appeal of flavored electronic cigarettes among youth in the community and realizing how accessible tobacco and nicotine products were to underage individuals through their peers who were eligible buyers.
“We already know that 99% of individuals who are lifelong smokers started before the age of 26, said Rep. Campbell “This addiction leads to increased rates of cancer as well as detrimental damage to one’s brain, lungs, and heart. We have already seen the success of this initiative at a municipal level in Massachusetts, including in the City of Methuen, as well as at a state level in California who has already reported decreased sales to minors after implementing its Tobacco 21 law in 2016. It is time that we fully commit to this vital public health initiative statewide in Massachusetts.”