Kudos to the kids!
It took a year, but a group of high school students in Lawrence, Massachusetts worked to ban flavored tobacco products from stores that are frequented by kids. The Board of Health voted 3-0 to limit the sales to 21 and over establishments, and went further to prohibit smoking at tobacco stores as well as restrict smoking in outdoor construction sites.
Massachusetts’ anti-smoking non-profit the84.org supported the students with a $2,000 grant which allowed them to survey 121 licensed bodegas and markets in their city and compile the data. Flavored tobacco is often sold in bright packaging that looks like candy, which one person described as “a clear marketing strategy by the tobacco companies to market to our youth.” They emphasized they aren’t making the sale of flavored tobacco illegal, they just want it confined to adult-only tobacco stores.
The state of Massachusetts just recently raised the minimum tobacco age to 21 which will go into effect December 31 of this year. As far back as 2005, Massachusetts communities were raising their smoking age to 21. Before the bill raised it statewide, 170 cities and towns, accounting for almost 70% of the state population, had already made it law. While the law will protect those not yet 18 by the end of the year, those who turn 18 before the law goes into effect will be allowed to continue to purchase tobacco. The law also includes e-cigarettes and prohibits their use and sale in certain places. Pharmacies will no longer be able to sell tobacco products.
While other communities and states throughout the U.S. are passing Tobacco 21 laws, it doesn’t appear to be moving forward in Florida. A commentary in the Orlando Sentinel on January 23 of this year urged lawmakers to raise the tobacco age, citing statistics such as “95% of smokers begin their addiction before the age of 21,” and “one in every three young smokers will die of a smoking-related illness or disease. Three lawmakers are lead sponsors on a bill that would raise “the minimum legal age for tobacco and electronic smoking devices to 21.” But it appears Big Tobacco is controlling the future health of our kids thanks in part to the “67 lobbyists who are stopping Florida from taking similar action” of raising the state’s tobacco age.
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