Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

Medford raises tobacco purchasing age from 18 to 21

Joining the majority of surrounding cities and towns and more than 100 statewide, Medford has raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

The Medford City Council voted unanimously in favor of amending the city’s smoking ordinance Oct. 18 after City Councilor Adam Knight proposed the change several weeks earlier.

Knight had worked with Maureen Buzby, coordinator of the Mystic Valley Tobacco Alcohol Program, to draft the revised ordinance. Medford is the last of the Mystic Valley coalition’s seven municipalities to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.

“We’re actually the weak link in the chain at this point in time where individuals in other communities that have a legal [purchasing] age of 21 can actually come to Medford to purchase cigarettes,” Knight said during the council’s Sept. 20 meeting, when he proposed the ordinance change.

In addition to the Mystic Valley cities and towns – Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, Reading, Wakefield and Winchester – Medford joins more than 130 municipalities statewide that have raised the minimum age for buying tobacco products.

A 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine found that passing similar legislation nationwide would lower overall smoking rates by 12 percent and prevent 16,000 cases of preterm birth and low birth weight in the first five years of the policy.

According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 90 percent of smokers reported starting smoking before the age 21.

“The [Medford] Board of Health is very happy that you’re moving forward with this resolution,” said Board of Health Director MaryAnn O’Connor during the Sept. 20 council meeting.

Knight’s fellow councilors also expressed strong support for the change.

“Nobody supports this more than me,” Councilor Rick Caraviello said. “My mother passed away from smoking, and I don’t think [a person] should.”

Medford ranks low in compliance checks

While praising the council for the ordinance change, Buzby said she hoped Medford would also provide funding to increase the number of compliance checks conducted throughout the city.

Twice each year, Buzby visits businesses in Medford and the other Mystic Valley cities and towns to see whether establishments sell tobacco products to youth under 21 – or previously, under 18.

“Medford stores are probably compliance-wise in the bottom half of the seven [municipalities],” Buzby said. “So we could use some improvement in compliance. However, this particular region – the Mystic Valley region – has much higher compliance than most of the other regions in the state. So we do very, very well in this region. Medford could use a little improvement.”

Buzby said the state provides funding only for under-18 compliance checks because the minimum age to purchase tobacco under state law remains 18 (a campaign to raise the minimum age to 21 throughout the state has received support in the state Senate, however).

Therefore, Buzby said she hopes Medford provides an additional $300 in funding so that she can conduct compliance checks with 19 or 20-year-old youth, now that Medford has raised the minimum purchasing age to 21.

“I think it’s really important if you pass this resolution to do an additional check with a 19 or 20 year old so that you’re closer to that legal age and you’re getting a truer compliance check,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>