House Passes Bill Raising Tobacco Age to 21

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Last week the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation (146-4) that would raise the statewide age for purchasing tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21 and ban vaping from workplaces. 

I am proud to say that my three communities (Marblehead, Swampscott and Lynn) were ahead of the curve that is now closer to being state law. 90 percent of adults who become daily smokers started before turning 19 years old. Numerous communities across Massachusetts have already raised the minimum age to reduce youth access to tobacco, and it is time that we pursue a state-wide law to hinder youth from skirting their local laws by visiting neighboring towns where purchase is legal at 18.  

The legislation would also place new restrictions on e-cigarettes, including banning the smoking of "vapor products" in areas where smoking is already prohibited, such as school grounds, polling locations and in nursing homes. E-cigarettes would be subject to the same legal buying age (21 if it becomes law) as regular cigarettes. 

In addition, health care institutions, including pharmacies, would be banned from selling tobacco and vapor products. Vapor products could not be sold out of vending machines, and new regulations would require childproof packaging for liquid nicotine used in vape pens. 

Vaping has become a big trend in middle and high schools. In 2015, only 27.8 percent of Massachusetts high school students had ever used a cigarette. Yet, in that same year, 44.8 percent reported having ever used an e-cigarette – whether a vape, e-cigarette, or any other type of aerosol-based nicotine product. These products contain harmful substances including nicotine to get kids addicted sooner, heavy metals and toxins like lead, and chemicals linked to serious lung disease.

E-cigarettes are not defined by federal law as tobacco products leaving them unregulated by the Food & Drug Administration. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is just as addictive though luring the children in with colorful packaging and flavors, and hooking them for life. That’s why it’s time for Massachusetts to step in on vaping which is a dangerous end run around our laws to protect kids.

As the number one cause of preventable death, I am glad to see the House take action on tobacco products to protect the health of its citizens. 

Preyel Patel