Senator Joan B. Lovely
State Senator
2nd Essex District


June 29, 2018

Senate Passes Legislation to Protect Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction

BOSTON– The Massachusetts Senate engrossed comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. 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 bill, An Act Protecting Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction, raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21; adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law; and prohibits the sale of tobacco products in health care institutions, including pharmacies.

“Raising the legal sales age for tobacco is an incredible public health achievement that will save lives, prevent addiction and ensure a healthier future for generations of Massachusetts youth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester).  “This legislation protects young adults whose minds and bodies are still developing, and is a proven strategy for nicotine addiction prevention. I am proud that the Senate has voted to approve this bill.”

“I am proud of the tremendous work of my colleague, Senator Jason Lewis, for his leadership on this important Public Health issue,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “This legislation brings Massachusetts one step closer to reducing tobacco use and nicotine addiction among our youth.”

While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply. 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 town of Needham achieved a 48% reduction in youth tobacco use after becoming the first town in Massachusetts to raise the legal sales age to 21. 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 Attorney General Maura Healey, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.

“We have come too far in our fight to protect young people from the dangers of tobacco and nicotine to turn back now,” said Attorney General Maura Healey. “This legislation is an important step toward ensuring that young people do not use these products. I applaud the Senate for passing this important bill and helping prevent another generation from growing up addicted to tobacco and nicotine.”

This bill 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 bill now returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where the bill has formerly been engrossed, for enactment.