The momentum is building on e-cigarettes, and the time is right for a big push. We’re talking about the power of a ban on flavored tobacco products paired with an excise tax on e-cigarettes. The time is right—let’s get this done!
The House Ways and Means Committee increased the budget for the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) by $400,000 in line 4590-0300. The House approved this increase, voting to fund the program at $4,718,872 for FY 2020. This is an excellent start and a great continuation from last year’s increase of $500,000, but MTCP’s funding level still does not meet its needs. Rep. Danielle Gregoire had sponsored an amendment to increase MTCP’s budget to $8,250,000, which would bring the program back to its FY 2007 level and allow it to more fully meet the new challenges brought about by e-cigarettes.
MTCP 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 materials educating about tobacco and nicotine, and provides surveillance and evaluation for tobacco issues, including the rise in e-cigarette use among young people. Funding MTCP at $8,250,000 will allow the tobacco program to educate parents and other adults about e-cigarettes, Juul and other emerging products; provide more enforcement of local tobacco laws protecting youth; and work more effectively to help all smokers quit.
The next step in the FY 2020 state budget process is for the Senate Ways and Means Committee to produce its budget. We’ll send out information about the Senate Ways and Means budget when we have it, likely in a couple of weeks!
Status of Priority Legislation
- Banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Senator John Keenan and Representative Danielle Gregoire filed An Act regulating flavored tobacco products (Senate Bill 1279 and House Bill 1902, respectively).This priority bill would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in Massachusetts. The ban would include flavored Juul and other e-cigarettes and vape products. Menthol and other mint flavors are included in the definition of flavor. In Massachusetts, many communities have already restricted the sale of flavored products to adult-only establishments (see Local Action section, below), and Somerville, Needham, and other communities have included mint/menthol/wintergreen in their restrictions. Referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health.
- Raising the cigarette tax and instituting an excise tax on e-cigarettes and vape products. Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Marjorie Decker filed An Act protecting youth from nicotine addiction (Senate Bill 1606 and House Bill 2436, respectively). This bill would add an excise tax of 75% of wholesale to e-cigarettes, increasing their prices and making them harder for young people to afford. It would also increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.00, bringing it to a more reasonable $4.51, and increase the tax on cigars from 40% of wholesale to 80% of wholesale. Increasing the price of cigars and cigarettes is one of the most effective ways to help smokers quit and prevent kids from starting. History and evidence show that this will reduce the smoking rate, saving some of the more than $4 billion in health care costs annually attributed to tobacco use in Massachusetts. Referred to the Joint Committee on Revenue. But wait! How does this bill differ from what the Governor proposed? And that other bill from Rep. Vargas, Sen. Cyr, and Rep. Garlick? The others are only e-cigarette taxes, while this one includes cigarettes and cigars as well. Take a look at the e-cigarette tax comparison chart attached to this email for other differences and the full side-by-side.
- Close the loopholes in the MassHealth tobacco cessation benefit. Senator Jason Lewis and Representative Christine Barber have filed An Act to provide Medicaid coverage for tobacco cessation (Senate Bill 704 and House Bill 1129, respectively). This bill seeks to expand access to the program by allowing trained and approved dentists and behavioral health practitioners to provide cessation counseling to patients on MassHealth as recommended by the CDC. The MassHealth smoking cessation benefit was a huge success when it was introduced in Fiscal Year 2007, but certain providers, including dentists and behavioral health providers, were not included. Closing the loophole would enable certified professionals in these fields to counsel, and bill for, tobacco cessation for their MassHealth patients. Referred to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.
- Although it’s not one of Tobacco Free Mass’ stated priority issues, Representative Lori Erhich’s tobacco bill, An Act relative to tobacco premium ratings (HB 964), would prohibit insurers from charging higher premiums for tobacco users. Current law provides for the Commissioner of the Division of Insurance to decide each year whether to allow tobacco as a rating factor. Tobacco Free Mass firmly believes that tobacco users should not be punished for an addiction started by, and made worse by, the tactics of Big Tobacco! Quite the opposite—we should ensure they have access to the evidence-based tools needed to help them quit.
We’re watching vigilantly for any efforts to preempt local authority on tobacco issues, including any efforts to undermine the statewide smoke-free workplace law. We’re ready to support any legislation that will help smokers quit, prevent young people from becoming addicted to tobacco and nicotine, and that will prevent exposure to secondhand smoke. Our priorities are the issues we’ll be concentrating our efforts on because we think they can make the most impact, we have the right support, and we think they have a good chance of passing. You can print out the updated TFM Cheat Sheet attached to this email if you want to be able to talk the talk in a pinch!
- JUUL, JUUL, JUUL! The topic of vaping is everywhere in the media, and just yesterday the Public Health Advocacy Institute, a TFM member, sued JUUL for “unfair and deceptive trade practices” to get the company to fund nicotine cessation programs for young people addicted to the product. Earlier this month, former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley surprised/angered/disgusted her former supporters when she announced she’d taken a job with JUUL. And if that weren’t enough, JUUL is targeting military personnel with a smarmy “heroes” campaign. And hmmm…. JUUL seems to be doing an awful lot of lobbying at the state level.
- An excellent educational campaign for young people about vaping has been released by the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program. This complements an established campaign for parents and a toolkit for schools. The messages are getting through; adults are more likely to see e-cigarettes as harmful now than they were a few years ago, according to a recent study in JAMA.
- Did we mention that a Harvard study found e-cigarettes to be contaminated, and the former Surgeon General warned of e-cigarettes causing seizures? But WGBH ran a nice segment on youth vaping in Massachusetts and the effort to stop it; keep an eye out for TFM member Cheryl Sbarra!
- A move is afoot in Washington DC to stem the tide of the youth tobacco epidemic through legislation that includes banning flavors of nearly all products, raising the sales age to 21, restricting advertising of new products like e-cigarettes, and getting the FDA to finally get those graphic warning labels on packages. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided to take on the youth vaping epidemic, though many fear his proposal will be a Trojan horse loaded with preemption and other provisions benefitting the tobacco industry. An opinion piece in The Hill brings up the prospect of requiring manufacturers of product like JUUL that claim they’re cessation devices to get FDA oversight.
- And it’s not just the person JUULing who’s being impacted. In 2017, more than half (55.1%, 14.3 million) of US middle and high school students reported exposure to secondhand tobacco product emissions in indoor or outdoor public places, according to a study published by the CDC.
- And in another study, a research letter in JAMA Pediatrics showed the prevalence of combustible cigarette use was significantly lower in pregnant women than in nonpregnant women, but the prevalence of current e-cigarette use was almost identical between pregnant and nonpregnant women.
- And a non-JUUL bullet: If only 1% of all MassHealth members who smoke quit this year, the Commonwealth would see a health care savings of $10.9 million next year, according to a new study by Stan Glantz in JAMA Patient Care. Despite all the hubbub about e-cigarettes, combustible cigarettes remain the #1 cause of death and disease in Massachusetts, and making MassHealth’s smoking cessation benefit more accessible by eliminating carveouts for behavioral and dental health remains one of TFM’s priority issues this session.
Tobacco Free Mass Membership Dues
Tobacco Free Mass has switched to a dues-based model, so your dues contribution is essential to allowing us to fight the good fight! Keep an eye out for your organization’s dues notice, which will arrive in your inbox this week. Dues-paying members have voting rights and receive a ticket to the September Policy Forum, among other perks!
Upcoming Tobacco Free Mass Meetings
The next full coalition and Advocacy Committee meetings are coming up soon! Remember that we’ve switched to alternating months for Executive and Advocacy committee meetings, so the meetings are less frequent.
- May 23 – Executive Committee meeting from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM at The Strategy Group’s offices at 40 Court Street, 11th Floor, Boston
- June 6 – Full Coalition meeting from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – Massachusetts Medical Society, Waltham
- June 6 – Advocacy Committee meeting from 12:15 PM to 1:15 PM (following full coalition meeting) – Massachusetts Medical Society, Waltham
See the full calendar on our website, at tobaccofreema.org.
Upcoming Events and Opportunities
- May 15 – FDA Scientific Workshop on youth e-cigarette cessation. This is a follow-up to the agency’s public hearing on January 18 and will explore many of the scientific issues brought up during that hearing. You can watch the free webcast, but you must register by May 13. You may also submit a public comment through May 31, 2019 if you didn’t already submit one for the January 18 hearing.
- May 22 – Vaping and the Adolescent Brain. The Mass Health Council’s event is aimed at schools but would be relevant for almost anyone working to protect young people from tobacco. You can see an agenda and register on the event’s homepage.
- May 23 – An Introduction to E-Cigarettes, JUULS and Vaping: What’s New? What’s True? This half-day introductory workshop on e-cigarettes is tailored to professionals working with people recovering from substance use disorders. Agenda and registration available on the event’s homepage.
- June 11 – Tobacco Free Mass Lobby Day. Massachusetts State House, of course. Save the date!
- September 24 – Tobacco Free Mass Policy Forum. This year’s policy forum will focus on flavor, and we’re busy lining up some excellent speakers! It will be at the Massachusetts Medical Society in the morning. Registration starts at 9:30 with the program from 10-12. More details to come, but for now, save the date! Dues-paying TFM member organizations receive one or two free tickets!
TFM Working Groups
- TFM’s E-Cigarette Working Group has distributed a form to help TFM members collect personal stories and photos that can inform the community and legislators about the impact of e-cigarette use on real people and communities. The group is also working with pediatricians to share information and collect their stories. The E-Cigarette Working Group will announce its next meeting soon. If you would like to participate in the meeting or be a member of TFM’s E-Cigarette Working Group but are not on the list, please email Annegret Klaua or Jonina Gorenstein, who are heading up the working group.
- TFM’s Menthol Working Group is monitoring the movement of local regulations that restrict menthol sales. The group is contacting people who it thinks would be important to the menthol conversation in Massachusetts and starting to invite those people and groups into the discussion. If you have thoughts on who the group should be reaching out to, are interested in joining the group, or would like to come to the next meeting, please contact Chris Banthin, who’s heading up the TFM Menthol Working Group.
Local Flavor (policies)
It’s no secret that tobacco policies passed on the local level build the case for statewide policy… and that they protect people who live, work, and visit those places. This is very much the case for flavored tobacco regulations, and as municipalities work to restrict or ban the sale of menthol, they need support. Tobacco Free Mass doesn’t work on local regulations, but the people that do asked if we would pass along a special request for letters and testimony at these local hearings. If you live in one of these communities, please attend the hearing to speak if at all possible. And if a friend or frenemy lives in one, please ask them to speak or write in!
- Walpole – May 7, expanded flavor policy. Contact DJ Wilson.
- Lynn – May 14, original flavor policy. Contact DJ Wilson.
- Sharon – May 16, DJW/Sarah M, original flavor policy. Contact DJ Wilson or Sarah McColgan.
- Brookline — Town Meeting starts on May 21and continues from there… it’s Article 19. Contact DJ Wilson.
- Middleboro – June 5, expanded flavor (with menthol) policy. Contact Sarah McColgan.
- Norfolk – June 10, original flavor policy. Contact Sarah McColgan.
Local Tobacco Policies
While you and I go about our fascinating daily lives, things are steadily changing on the local level. 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. Every month, a few more cities and towns pass laws, adding up to a substantial number! Here’s a sampling of what’s going on…
- Restricting the sale of flavored tobacco to adult-only establishments. This is one of the key statewide priorities discussed at the planning session earlier this month. This policy prohibits the sale of all flavored tobacco products and flavored e-cigarettes, except for in qualified retail tobacco stores and “smoking bars.” 147 cities and towns have passed this policy, covering nearly two-thirds of the state’s population, at 63%. Five of these policies (Somerville, Needham, Ashland, Dover, and Framingham) now include menthol as a flavor, and other municipalities are beginning to consider it. Anyone interested in the menthol issue should contact Chris Banthin and join the Menthol Working Group.
- A full 125 municipalities limit, or cap, the number of tobacco sales permits they will issue, covering 40% of the state’s population. Of these, six cities and towns also have a cap on the number of tobacco retailers they will allow. This is stated in language such as: “This municipality limits tobacco sales permits to X number and of that X number, only Y number can be issued to Retail Tobacco Stores.” When specific tobacco products, such as flavors, are restricted to adult-only tobacco retailers, the “Retail Tobacco Stores” are the stores the regulations refer to.
- Prohibiting a new tobacco retailer opening within 500 feet of an existing tobacco retailer. This policy cuts down on density issues—having a high concentration of tobacco retailers in one area. Vape stores are considered tobacco retailers. 14 cities and towns have already passed this new regulation, covering 4% of the state’s population.
- Prohibiting new tobacco retailers from opening within 500 feet of a public or private elementary or secondary school. This policy addresses the issue of kids’ exposure to tobacco products and marketing, while also addressing issues of density. 122 municipalities have passed this regulation, covering a third (35%) of the state’s population.
Information about local policies can be found on the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program’s website, MakeSmokingHistory.org.
Is your head spinning? That’s a lot of tobacco stuff. Take a walk and go pet a dog.