Monthly Update: December 2017






Talking the Talk: Tobacco Terms

Every year, as Tobacco Free Mass works at the State House to pass legislation, the issue of preemption emerges.  Preemption at the state level on a specific topic removes municipalities’ ability to pass regulations on that topic.  Preemption is often offered as a way to “simplify” regulations, but when it comes to tobacco, preemption is a well-documented tobacco industry strategy.

Tobacco control works in Massachusetts in large part because we have strong state laws combined with strong local laws.  In fact, local laws often pave the way for statewide policy—the statewide smoke-free workplace law was passed because so many municipalities had already passed local versions.  Our current priority legislation includes banning the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, increasing the age of sale of tobacco from 18 to 21, and including e-cigarettes in the smoke-free workplace law—all of which are policies that Massachusetts’ municipalities have been passing for a few years.

An example of a preemptive state law that lightly touches our municipal level efforts is the state law regulating the sale of plain rolling papers.  This state law limits their sale to adults aged 18 or older and forbids cities and towns from further regulating them today.  Only pre-1996 local policies are legal and this is why our local tobacco sales regulations are silent on rolling papers.

It is a testament to the effectiveness of local tobacco control that the tobacco industry continues to push preemption.  And we promise that our advocates will continue to fight it!  If you’d like more information on this topic, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights has a comprehensive overview.

 Interesting Articles


Upcoming Events

  • March 21 – Kick Butts Day celebration at the State House. 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.  Members of Tobacco Free Mass are encouraged to join in.  Mark your calendars!  More information will come your way in the new year.
  • Does your organization have a tobacco-related upcoming event? Let us know about it! We may be able to share it here.


Upcoming Tobacco Free Mass Meetings

  • December 7 (Tomorrow!) – Full Coalition meeting from 10:00 AM to Noon; Advocacy Committee from  12:15 PM to 1:15 PM at ACS in Framingham.
  • January 25 – Advocacy meeting from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM at the Strategy Group offices in Boston
  • February 15 – Advocacy meeting 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM; Executive Committee from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM at the Strategy Group offices in Boston
  • March 1 – Full Coalition meeting from 10:00 AM to Noon; Advocacy Committee from  12:15 PM to 1:15 PM at ACS in Framingham.


Status of Tobacco Legislation

  • Tobacco Tax Increases: On July 18th, the Joint Committee on Revenue held a public hearing on HB 3314, a bill that would increase the excise tax on cigarettes by $1.00 to $4.51 and the tax on cigars from 40% of wholesale to 80% of wholesale. Another tax, one on e-cigarettes (H3998) has been favorably reported out by the Joint Committee on Revenue and is now in House Ways and Means. In addition, the Senate voted to close the tax loophole on flavored cigars as part of the health care bill it passed on November 9.  The health care bill is now in the hands of the House, which plans to produce its own proposal right after the holidays. As written in the Senate version, the tax would fund the Prevention Wellness Trust Fund.
  • Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention program (MTCP) budget: The Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention program was funded this fiscal year at $3,718,862, down from $3,866,096 in Fiscal Year 2017. Tobacco Free Mass has scheduled meetings for January to begin working on improving MTCP’s budget for Fiscal Year 2019.


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 are four of the tobacco regulations being passed by the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts:

  • 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. 160 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. 165 cities and towns have a MLSA of 21 and two have a MLSA of 19.
  • Limit Flavored “Other Tobacco Products,” including E-Cigarettes, to adult-only retail tobacco stores. Takes the 2009 federal FDA regulation that banned flavored cigarettes and expands it to all tobacco products and e-cigarette “juices.” Does not include menthol. Flavored products can still be sold in certain adult-only establishments where youth cannot see or buy them. 107 cities and towns have enacted this policy.
  • No Tobacco Product Sales Permits to be issued to new retailers within 500 feet of a school. Policy is limited to new retailers only and provides conditions for permit renewal and sale of the permit holder’s business. 90 cities and towns have enacted this policy.

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

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


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