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Posted by (name unknown) on Apr 29th, 2016 10:13am

The Massachusetts Senate just moved us one step closer to improved efforts to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction in the commonwealth. I commend Senate President Stan Rosenberg and the members of the Senate for their approval this week of a strong and comprehensive bill that, among other things, could make Massachusetts the second state in the nation behind Hawaii to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 statewide.

Senator Jason Lewis, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health, and Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler deserve particular recognition for their leadership on this important issue, in conjunction with Tobacco Free Massachusetts, the state's leading organization to reduce tobacco use in the commonwealth (and of which MHA is a proud member). MHA testified at the State House last July in favor of many of the provisions included in this bill, which include a prohibition against the sale of tobacco and nicotine-delivery products to anyone under age 21, adds e-cigarettes to the smoke-free workplace law and prohibits the sale of tobacco in pharmacies and other health care facilities.

Seventy-six percent of MHA-member hospitals already self-report as having fully achieved tobacco-free status, which means their grounds are completely tobacco-free, including parking lots and garages, with no exceptions. Some Massachusetts hospitals have taken their commitment a step further, and joined MHA in no longer hiring tobacco users. While some of the state's 351 cities and towns have already limited tobacco sales to those 21 and older, a consistent, statewide age limit of 21 is the most appropriate approach to discourage tobacco use and subsequent addiction among the young people of Massachusetts. Research from the US Surgeon General has shown that over 90 percent of smokers start by age 18, so raising the tobacco purchasing age limit to 21 statewide can help decrease smoking, vaping and other tobacco use rates in the Bay State overall.

Tobacco and nicotine use is the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts. It costs the state more than $4 billion annually in healthcare costs. In addition, tobacco consumption results in hundreds of millions of dollars in lost productivity due to illness and premature death.

Increasing the age at which individuals can buy cigarettes – or any tobacco product – is a common sense way to promote population health. A combination of state laws, prevention programs, and community-based education will help decrease the prevalence of youth smoking. 

MHA and our member hospitals and health systems strongly support the collective provisions of this legislation, which we believe are essential steps in the effort to eliminate tobacco use and its harmful impact on public health.

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