Clear The Air News Tobacco Blog Rotating Header Image

March 29th, 2017:

Cancer group renews push to increase tobacco purchase age to 21

Cancer prevention advocates are renewing their push to raise the statewide smoking age from 18 to 21.

The issue has been raised before, as a growing number of cities and towns increase the age for purchasing tobacco. A bill to raise the statewide tobacco purchase age to 21 passed the Senate last year on a vote of 32-2. But the bill never made it through the House.

Carol Clark, a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network from Gloucester, survived cancer herself. She has two friends currently battling lung cancer caused by smoking. She lost her grandmother to smoking-related emphysema. She plans to come to the Statehouse to lobby for the bill.

“I think kids have too much access (to tobacco),” Clark said. “They start smoking at a young age. It does major damage.”

Clark said she does not understand why so many teenagers start to smoke given the information available today about its health risks. Clark, 61, said she wishes that information was available when her generation and her parents’ generation were growing up.

“I don’t want to see the next generation go through what mine are going through right now,” she said.

According to the American Cancer Society, 95 percent of smokers start smoking before age 21. Supporters of the bill see it as a way to protect children and teenagers and avoid negative public health impacts, including an increase in cancer rates, later on. It would also create uniform rules across the state, as opposed to a patchwork of local ordinances.

Opponents of the bill have argued that 18-year-olds are adults and should be allowed to make their own decisions. And raising the age could negatively affect businesses that sell tobacco.

The penalties for violating the law would be on retailers, not smokers.

Other sections of the bill would ban the sale of tobacco in pharmacies and ban the smoking of e-cigarettes in schools, restaurants and workplaces.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network will be advocating for the bill as part of its annual lobbying day at the Statehouse on Wednesday. The group expects more than 100 people at the event.

The legislation, S.1218/H.2864, is sponsored by Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, and Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham. It has approximately 140 co-sponsors.