By Bob Katzen

A new law raising from 18 to 21 the age to legally purchase cigarettes and electronic cigarettes in the Bay State took effect last week. Other provisions ban e-cigarettes and other vape devices from the workplace and private and public school grounds and prohibit pharmacies and healthcare facilities from selling any tobacco or vape products. The new law does not make it a crime for minors to smoke but does impose penalties on retailers who sell tobacco to underage customers. It also exempts from the hike youths who turned 18 by Dec. 31, the day the law took effect.

Prior to the hike going into effect, some 50 percent of the state’s cities and towns, including Boston, had already raised the legal age up from 18 to 21.

“Raising the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21 aims to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction by decreasing access and exposure to these products,” said Massachusetts Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. “Nearly nine out of ten cigarette smokers started before they were 18 years old, and 98 percent first tried smoking by age 26.”

Bharel continued, “Because the brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s, youth and young adults are uniquely at risk for long-term, long-lasting effects of exposure to nicotine. By delaying the age when young people may first begin using tobacco, we can reduce the risk that they will become lifelong tobacco users.”

“As I have consistently said, if society entrusts an 18-year-old with something as important as the right to vote for their elected officials, or the ability to fight for their country in war, they should be allowed the responsibility to choose whether or not they want to use tobacco,” said Sen. Don Humason (R-Westfield). “I become concerned when the Legislature tries to tell people who would otherwise be considered adults what they can and cannot do.”

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