On Tuesday, May 16, Dr. Lynda Young, president of Tobacco Free Mass and former president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, testified with Chris Lathan, M.D., a medical oncologist from Dana Farber Cancer Institute in support of legislation that would raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 and would prohibit the sale of “e-cigarettes” to anyone under age 21. MHA, which is a member of Tobacco Free Mass, submitted written testimony in favor of SB1218/HB2864, “An Act to Protect Youth from the Health Risks of Tobacco and Nicotine Addiction.” The bill is sponsored by Joint Public Health Committee Chairman Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) and Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham); Lewis’ co-chair from the House, Rep. Kate Hogan (D-Stow), is also supportive of the legislation.

Of the state’s 351 cities and towns, 151 have prohibited the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 21. A Institute of Medicine report released in 2015 found raising the tobacco age to 21 will result in a 12% decrease in tobacco addiction and prevent 250,000 deaths.

As for e-cigarettes, Dr. Young noted that the e-liquids that are mixed with tobacco products “come in hundreds of candy and fruit-flavors that appeal to kids, including cotton candy, bubble gum, grape, and Kool-Aid. Disclosure of e-cigarette ingredients is not required by any governmental agency, but a scientific review of research conducted over the last several years found toxins and carcinogens, including formaldehyde, cadmium, lead, and nickel in secondhand vapor.”

Some argue that e-cigarettes are actually a deterrent to outright “smoking” and that they could be considered a cessation device.

“The reality is that the FDA attempted to regulate these products as cessation devices nearly 10 years ago and the e-cigarette industry sued to be regulated as a tobacco product instead,” Young said. “While the science continues to develop around e-cigarettes and cessation, two goals should remain paramount: that decisions about cessation should be made between the individual smoker and his or her doctor; and that states and local governments must do everything they can to make sure that the marketing, sale and use of these devices do not increase youth nicotine addiction or threaten the long-term gains we’ve made reducing overall tobacco use in Massachusetts.”

Another part of the bill – banning the sale of tobacco products at healthcare institutions and pharmacies – is also endorsed strongly by MHA, which wrote in its testimony, “We believe that it's counterproductive to the collective mission of hospitals and healthcare providers – including pharmacies – if tobacco products are sold where healthcare treatment is offered.” More than 75% of MHA member hospitals have established completely tobacco-free campuses and several hospitals have joined MHA in establishing employment practices in which tobacco users are not hired.