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Sixth US state raises tobacco purchase age to 21

A bill that will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products in Massachusetts to 21 years old received the signature of Governor Charlie Baker last month, making The Bay State the sixth in the United States to enact such an increase.

The bill, which passed as H.4486, was approved by the House of Representatives in mid-May by a 147-4 margin and by the Senate in late June by a 33-2 vote tally. However a handful of amendments left the two versions different from each other and thus required the two chambers to craft a compromise version, which they worked on for  several weeks before passing it in mid-July, reports Half Wheel.

“Raising the age to buy tobacco products in the Commonwealth is an important step to prevent addiction for young people and encourage healthy choices,” said Baker during the signing. “We appreciate the Legislature’s collaboration to pass this bill that will limit the purchasing of cigarettes and other harmful products for those under 21 to support long term health for the next generation.”

The increase goes into effect on December 31, but the bill does provide a grandfather clause for persons who attained the age of 18 before that date. However, those individuals will still be subject to any municipal ordinance or other regulation that prohibited sales of tobacco products or vapor products to persons under the age of 19, 20 or 21 in effect on December 30, 2018.

In addition to the age increase, the bill also adds e-cigarettes to existing smoking bans, prohibits the use of any tobacco products on school grounds, and bans the sale of tobacco by any pharmacy, hospital, or other entity that offers health care services or that employs any licensed health care providers.

Massachusetts joins HawaiiCaliforniaOregon, New Jersey and Maine to have enacted such an increase. Illinois could soon be the next one to join the group as Governor Bruce Rauner has a bill on his desk that will raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21 should he sign it. He has 60 days to act on the bill from when he receives it, which was on June 28.

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