Monthly Update: March 2018

Despite snow events and snow non-events, there’s been a lot of action in March!

 Status of Tobacco Legislation

  • Omnibus bill is in the House Ways and Means Committee! Tobacco Free Mass’ priority legislation was reported out of the Joint Committee on Public Health in January, moved to the Joint Committee on Health Care Finance, and spent the month of February in the House Ways and Means Committee with a new bill number: HB4109. The legislation includes increasing the sales age for tobacco from 18 to 21, adding e-cigarettes to the smoke free workplace law, and prohibiting the sale of tobacco in pharmacies. The bill was the featured piece of legislation at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Lobby Day on March 28.  A rescheduled Kick Butts Day on May 2 will help keep the momentum going, and if we need a final push, the American Heart and Stroke Association will also be highlighting the bill during its lobby day on May 17.  TFM will also have lobby day activities that will help get the legislation to the finish line (details will be announced soon!).  In the meantime, we are watching the bill closely and will let you know when action is needed.
  • Watching and waiting on MTCP funding for next fiscal year. In his version of the FY 2019 state budget, Governor Baker proposed funding the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) at $3,358,872. This is a 10% cut and will seriously impact the program.  Because this cut comes on the heels of several years of declining budget, we are asking for MTCP to be funded at $8,250,000, which would bring the budget back to the FY 2007 level.  As we wait for the House to release its version of the budget, TFM advocates have been educating the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Speaker about the cut and its impact.  The House is expected to release its budget April 11 with debate taking place the week of April 23.  The Senate will then take up the budget in late May.  MTCP is the state’s tobacco control program and is critical to the fight against tobacco in Massachusetts. It implements and enforces laws, funds local boards of health and community organizations to do enforcement and education, runs the state’s quitline, produces ads and materials educating about tobacco and nicotine, and provides surveillance and evaluation for tobacco issues, including the rise in e-cigarette use among young people.  We are working to spread the word that this cut is ill-informed and comes at a time when schools are turning to MTCP for help handling Juul and other new tobacco product use. If you’ve been procrastinating about acting on the alert we sent when the cuts first came out, never fear—go ahead and do it now!
  • Federal Tobacco Industry lobbyists have a bad day. During the federal budget discussions, some members of Congress had tried to reduce funding for the Office of Smoking and Health (OSH) and had also tried to attach policy provisions called riders that would benefit the tobacco industry. Both of these attempts were thwarted when the federal budget was finally passed this month.  The OSH budget was funded at $210 million, a $5 million increase over last fiscal year, and neither rider was included. This is great news! Thank you to everyone who made calls and wrote emails on this issue.


Tobacco Groups

  • TFM’s E-Cigarette Working Group had its inaugural meeting on March 26.  ***If you would like to be a member of this group but did not attend the first meeting, please email me and I will put you on the working group’s email list! ***  The next meeting is scheduled for May 8 from 10:00-11:30 (location to be determined).  Many thanks to Annegret Klaua and Jonina Gorenstein for getting this group up and running!
  • TFM’s Menthol Working Group will kick into action in the late spring or early summer.  Initial conversations are underway, and I will send out an announcement when the group’s first full meeting is set.
  • If you would like to participate in Tobacco Free Mass’ Advocacy Committee but have not received meeting notices lately, please let me know—you may have been dropped from the list if you did not opt in as an active member of the Committee.  To be considered active, committee members participate in meetings in person or via phone and help with advocacy as needed. This help may be through letters, testimony, op-eds, legislative visits, or whatever else the committee determines.  If you would like to be part of the committee but are not able to be active right now, never fear—you can rejoin at any point.  And you won’t miss out. I will send out alerts about our issues to the full membership and will continue to include a legislative summary in the Monthly Update e-newsletter.
  • The Statewide Cessation Implementation Group invites anyone interested in working on the topic of smoking cessation for adults with mental illness to join them at their next meeting on April 26 from 2:00-3:30 at the Department of Public Health, 250 Washington Street, Boston, Conference Room 5B.  In Massachusetts, adults with mental illness smoke at a rate of 33.1%, far above the statewide average. For more information or a call-in number, please contact


Interesting Articles

  • Young people who use tobacco products other than cigarettes don’t always think of themselves as tobacco users, according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics.  The majority of young people using these products also don’t think they’re harmful.
  • Take a look at this excellent cheat sheet from the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium at the Public Health Law Center; it gives an overview of the FDA’s new tobacco regulatory plan including reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes and considering the role of flavors—including menthol—in tobacco products.  This is a great, quick read.
  • It’s been known for a while that e-cigarette vapor contains harmful chemicals.  A new study in the journal Pediatrics has established that these chemicals are found in the bodies of human adolescents who use these products.


Words matter.

The tobacco industry has long pushed the idea that kids are devious little devils who will try anything to get their hands on tobacco.  The reality, of course, is the opposite: the tobacco industry cynically and deliberately tries to hook young people on tobacco.  They try to place the blame on young people.  We try to emphasize the industry’s efforts to make tobacco products cheap, attractive/sweet, and available anywhere. They say the kids are the bad actors.  We say the tobacco companies are the bad actors.

So the way we talk about young people and tobacco, even in casual conversation, matters.  Here’s how to think about it:

  • Don’t use phrases like: “keep tobacco out of the hands of kids” or “kids getting their hands on tobacco” – that reinforces the industry’s message that the young people are the bad actors.
  • Do use phrases like: “the tobacco industry targets kids” or “the tobacco companies’ efforts to hook kids” – anything that reinforces the fact that the tobacco companies are the bad actors.


Upcoming Events

  • April 4 – The South Carolina Tobacco Free Collaborative is offering free access to its Tobacco Cessation & Health Equity Webinar Series.  The next webinar will discuss the targeting of the LGBTQ+ community by the tobacco industry, resulting health effects, and best practices for tobacco control. It will start at 2:00 pm.  The Collaborative’s website has more information and a registration link.
  • April 10 – From 2:00 to 2:45 pm, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) is offering a free virtual coffee chat that will provide a platform for discussing how to address the rise of e-cigarette use among youth, featuring examples from public health and pharmacy partners in Rhode Island. Speakers will share challenges and successes of addressing e-cigarette use in schools and respond to audience questions. You can get more information and register on ASTHO’s website.
  • May 2The Kick Butts Day celebration at the State House has been rescheduled for May 2!  We’re not sure of the times yet, but we will be inviting Tobacco Free Mass members to be at the State House that day, participating.  I will send out information in mid-April, as soon as we’ve hammered out our plans.  In Massachusetts, Kick Butts Day is celebrated at the State House by about 200 members of The 84 Youth Movement from across the Commonwealth. They hold an event and visit lawmakers.  Please hold the day in your calendars!
  • May 22 – The Massachusetts Health Council presents “Our Kids and Drugs of Misuse: Nicotine, Marijuana & Opioids,” an event aimed at school personnel that will include a discussion on e-cigarettes.  The event will take place from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm at Bentley University.  Tickets are $50 and can be purchased on the registration page on the Massachusetts Health Council’s website.


Local Tobacco Policies

Cities and towns across Massachusetts have been passing tobacco policies that fight the tobacco industry’s influence in communities and pave the way for statewide policy. Here is an up-to-the-minute update for the three of the tobacco regulations being passed by the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts.  These are the three main components of the omnibus (aka the Tobacco 21 bill), so they are clearly popular measures!

  • No tobacco product sales in health care institutions, including pharmacies. Bans tobacco sales in locations where health care services are provided, including doctor/dentist offices, hospitals, clinics, eye care providers and pharmacies. This includes supermarkets and big box stores that provide health care services. 163 cities and towns have enacted this policy. Over 60% of these also include e-cigarettes in the sales ban.
  • Raise the MLSA (Minimum Legal Sales Age) from 18 to 21. The Minimum Legal Sales Age for tobacco sales in Massachusetts is 18.  This policy raises the minimum age. More recent local policies extend the MLSA to nicotine delivery products such as e-cigarettes. 171 cities and towns have a MLSA of 21 and two have a MLSA of 19. This means that 72% of Massachusetts’ population lives in a municipality where the MLSA is 21!
  • Prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free locations. This policy bans the use of e-cigarettes wherever smoking is prohibited, through the Commonwealth’s Smoke-Free Law or a local regulation. 132 cities and towns have enacted this policy.

Information about local policies can be found on the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program’s website,


Upcoming Tobacco Free Mass Meetings

  • April 26 – Advocacy meeting 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM; Executive Committee from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM at *** 6 Court Street*** in Boston
  • May 8 – E-cigarette Working Group meeting from 10:00 to 11:30; location to be determined.
  • June 7 – Full Coalition meeting from 10:00 AM to Noon; Advocacy Committee from  12:15 PM to 1:15 PM at ACS in Framingham.
  • See the full calendar on our website, at


Feel like procrastinating?

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In the last monthly update, I neglected to note the passing of Rep. Peter Kocot of Northampton, a longtime tobacco control champion, and several of you gently mentioned it to me. Over his 40 years in the State House, he was a staunch supporter of efforts to help smokers quit and prevent young people from starting. We will miss him.

If you see something interesting you think might work in the April edition of our Monthly Update, please send it my way.


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