Massachusetts’ Smoking Age To Be Raised To 21?

In an attempt to dissuade teenagers from smoking cigarettes, Massachusetts is considering raising the smoking age to 21 and the move is being met with criticism from opponents. According to a report from the Boston Magazine, 15 Massachusetts communities have already raised the smoking age to either 19 or 21.

As reported by the Associated Press, the minimum legal age for tobacco sales has emerged in recent years as a new front in the battle to curb smoking. While some favor the proposal with the argument that a large majority of smokers become addicted to snuff and cigarettes before the age of 21, others don’t feel the same way and have spoken out against the bill. One such opponent is Hawaii state Rep. Angus McKelvey, a politician who is a Democratic member of the Hawaii House of Representatives. Speaking with the Associated Press, he gave the following statement.

“I can’t stand cigarette smoking. It’s disgusting,” McKelvey said. “But to tell somebody you can go and fight for your country and get killed but you can’t have a cigarette, that’s the thing.”

The Christian Science Monitor wrote that almost 60 representatives and senators have signed on to a bill that would make it illegal to sell tobacco to people under 21, with penalties ranging from $100 to $300 for repeat violations. The Legislature’s Public Health Committee could decide next year whether to advance the bill.

In 2005, Needham, a small town in Massachusetts, became the first town in the United States to raise the smoking age to 21. Since then, numerous communities in the Massachusetts area have followed suit and also raised the minimum age to either 19 or 21.

In June of this year, Hawaii’s governor signed a bill raising the legal smoking age statewide to 21, making it the first U.S. state to do so. According to Reuters, the law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and will also ban the sale, purchase or use of electronic cigarettes for those under the age of 21.

“Raising the minimum age as part of our comprehensive tobacco control efforts will help reduce tobacco use among our youth and increase the likelihood that our keiki (children) will grow up to be tobacco-free,” Hawaii Governor David Ige said in a statement.

It seems that most Americans are in favor of raising the smoking age to 21, and results from a recent CDC study revealed that about 75 percent of American adults support raising the age to 21, including 70 percent of cigarette smokers. The CDC has also welcomed raising the age for cigarette purchase. Ten Democratic U.S. senators are currently proposing to raise the nationwide smoking age to 21; although, the bill is unlikely to pass unless its embraced by a large number of Republicans, who currently control both both chambers of Congress.

Earlier this month, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported a significant fall in the number of smokers in the United States since 2005. It is said that the decline is directly associated with public interventions such as media campaigns, new laws and accessible quitting assistance.

“Raising the minimum age of sale to 21 could benefit the health of Americans in several ways,” said Brian King, a deputy director in the CDC office on smoking and health. “It could delay the age of first experimenting with tobacco, reducing the likelihood of transitioning to regular use and increasing the likelihood that those who do become regular users can quit.”

Boston’s Board of Health has scheduled a hearing on Thursday and a potential vote Dec. 17 on Mayor Marty Walsh’s proposal to ban to those under 21 the sale of all nicotine products — including cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco. If approved, the new rules could take effect in February or March, the report explained.

New York City raised the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21 in 2013. The legal age to purchase tobacco is 19 in Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah. The minimum age has been raised to 21 in dozens of cities and towns across the U.S. and lawmakers in Washington state and California have also recently introduced measures to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

[Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images News]