By Bob Katzen
The House 147-4, approved and sent to the Senate a bill raising from 18 to 21 the age to legally purchase cigarettes and electronic cigarettes in the Bay State. Other provisions ban e-cigarettes and other vape devices from the workplace and prohibit pharmacies and health care facilities from selling any tobacco products and vape products.
“When teens start smoking, studies show that they often become smokers for life,” said Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow), Chair of the 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.”
“Today is a real victory for Massachusetts youth,” said Dr. Lynda Young, pediatrician and Chair of Tobacco Free Mass. “I see kids in my practice who are already addicted—to cigarettes, vaping, chewing tobacco. Raising the age of sale will help break that cycle.”
“… Simply changing 18 to 21 in our current state law, will have a profound and lasting impact for generations to come [by] saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars,” said Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham), the sponsor of one of the original bills that was rolled into this new version that was approved last week. “To me, there is nothing more meaningful in our role as policy makers than that. By raising the age to purchase to 21 we eliminate smoking from the high school social setting and give teenagers time to make a more informed decision about whether or not to begin the oftentimes deadly habit of smoking.”
“You can vote at 18. You can serve in the military at 18. You should be able to buy cigarettes at 18,” said Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) one of four representatives who voted against the bill.
Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) noted that supporters of the age hike stated that 90 percent of tobacco users start smoking before the age of 18, yet current laws prohibit the sale to youths under 18. “Current laws did not curb tobacco use and neither will adding yet another law to the books. We need to educate people and incentivize them to make responsible choices in life.”
“At the age of 18 in Massachusetts, one can get married, get a tattoo, get your FID [Firearms Identification Card], serve in the military and vote in elections,” said Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica). “If at 18 in Massachusetts you have the right to make these major decisions, I’m not convinced that taking away the right to purchase tobacco makes sense. In addition, the research fails to show that taking away the ability to purchase tobacco from adults will make significant impacts on stopping underaged smoking.”