May 9 2018

Mass House Approves Bill to Raise Tobacco Sale Age to 21

By: Rich Hosford

A bill to raise the age for buying tobacco and nicotine products passed the Massachusetts State House with an overwhelming majority and is now heading to the State Senate.


On Wednesday state representatives voted 146-4 to approve raising the age for purchasing cigarettes and other tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21.


State Rep. Ken Gordon, whose district covers Burlington, Bedford and Precinct 3 in Wilmington, said he had heard from a large number of young people in the lead-up to the vote.


“This is a bill that a tremendous number of students in the district have told me they support in last few months,” he said. “They have come to my office in the State House urging me to support it.”

The young supporters of the bill said they wanted to protect their peers from the dangers of nicotine addiction, something they see spreading through the use of flavored electronic cigarette use, commonly called vaping.


“They told me they think teenagers are more vulnerable to nicotine and to becoming addicted to nicotine and that we should look into doing this,” Gordon said. “With them in mind I supported this bill.”


The state representative also said that as he learned more about vaping products he became more convinced this was a necessary step.


“This form of nicotine is concentrated and it’s flavored so it’s even more attractive to teenagers and it makes it more likely they will start down the path to nicotine addiction,” he said. “In that way they are even more harmful than traditional cigarettes.”


Gordon said he was not surprised the bill passed and by such a large majority.


“It’s a common sense piece of legislation to protect our minors,” he said. “As a philosophy we have long protected minors and this is an area, nicotine addiction, that costs the Commonwealth a lot of money annually in healthcare costs.”


He said some of the committee-generated statistics showed that rates of addiction is higher when people start using substances at a young age and the lasting effects are both fatal and expensive. These include:


- 75 percent of teen smokers continue into adulthood.

- 90 percent of smokers tried smoking before the age of 19.

- 9,000 people in Massachusetts die each year due to a smoking related illnesses.

- The state spends $4 billion a year in smoking related health care costs.


“The earlier you get involved with nicotine the likelier you will get addicted and the harder it will be to stop,” Gordon said.


Locally, this change in law will not have an effect on businesses. Burlington’s Board of Health voted in April to raise the age to buy tobacco and nicotine products to 21.


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