Advocates rally to change state tobacco laws

Advocates rally to change state tobacco laws on March 29 at the Statehouse. (Image courtesy of Sara Brown.)

More than 100 cancer patients, survivors and their families from throughout Massachusetts gathered at the State House to ask legislators to support legislation protecting youth from the dangers of nicotine addiction on March 29.

The visit was a part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) annual lobby day, which brought together people touched by cancer together to call on the Massachusetts’ legislature to make cancer a priority.

They were there to ask the legislature to support “An Act to protect youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction,” which takes a comprehensive approach to tobacco control efforts in the Commonwealth. The bill would increase the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21, include e-cigarettes in the smoke-free workplace law and prohibit sales of tobacco in facilities that provide health care, such as pharmacies.

Kate Hogan, chairwoman of the Committee on Public Health, spoke at the event as a former smoker. “When I started, I had no idea how addictive cigarettes were and I had no idea how it could affect your health. And so when I began to decide I needed to quit, it was probably the hardest thing I ever did,” she said.

Hogan said the bill ACS CAN is working to get passed is common sense. Several towns and cities have already passed local ordinances requiring people be at least 21 to buy tobacco products, such as Boston. Hogan said it makes sense to pass a statewide law.

“It’s confusing to have one town require individuals to be 18 and another 21,” Hogan said.

She also said tobacco should be regulated like alcohol and marijuana.

“Everything else you have to be 21 to buy it,” Hogan said. “It makes sense for this to be the same too.”

This year, more than 2,800 Massachusetts youth will become daily smokers, and 95 percent of adults who smoke started by the age of 21. Passage of the legislation would once again make Massachusetts the leader in the fight against Big Tobacco and ensure that the Commonwealth has some of the strongest anti-tobacco policies in the nation.

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About Sara Brown

Sara Brown is the Sampan health editor.

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