Tobacco Free Mass supports a comprehensive approach aimed at protecting young people from all tobacco and nicotine products, helping smokers quit, and preventing exposure to secondhand smoke.
Status of Priority Legislation
Even as normal activities have been curtailed, we are actively working on MTCP’s budget, ensuring that it is funded at a level that enables it to do its valuable work. We continue to work to reverse the loopholes that prevent access to cessation by MassHealth members. And we are ready to resume talk of taxing tobacco when the time is right.
Budget for the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program.
The House Ways and Means Committee released its version of the FY 2021 state budget on November 5. It includes an increase of $500,000 to the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program’s (MTCP) line! This means that the total amount proposed in MTCP’s line (4590-0300) is $5,118,155.
The additional funding included in the House Ways and Means budget will allow MTCP to better address the impact of the new tobacco law, including improving access to cessation services, ensuring compliance with the law, and evaluating its effects. As you’ll recall, in his version of the FY 2021 budget, the Governor level-funded the program at last year’s level of $4.5 million. The next step is for the full House to debate and vote on this version of the budget.
We are starting this process late in the fiscal year (this is the budget for the fiscal year we’re in, which began on July 1 of this year and ends on June 30, 2021). So stay tuned—nothing to do right now, but we’ll keep you posted on the budget’s progress and we’ll let you know if we need to raise our voices at any point. For perspective on what this budget amount means, take a look at the charts and graphs showing historical funding levels for the program, which are available on MassBudget.org.
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. TFM testified at the May 14, 2019 hearing, and several coalition members spoke or sent written testimony.
Raising the cigarette tax and instituting an excise tax on e-cigarettes and vape products. The new law creates an excise tax for e-cigarette and vape products, but does not increase taxes on other tobacco products, including combustible cigarettes. 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. This e-cigarette piece of the legislation is included in the Act to Modernize Tobacco Control (described above). However, this legislation 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.
Just over a year ago, Governor Baker signed An Act Modernizing Tobacco Control into law on November 27, 2019!
- The bill passed the Senate on November 20, 2019 with a vote of 32-6 and passed the House on November 13 with a vote of 127-31. Overwhelming majorities!
- This new law bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products, adds a 75% excise tax for e-cigarettes and vape products, includes cessation coverage, and more! Amendments that would exempt menthol tobacco products were rejected or withdrawn, so the law remains strong.
Here’s what the bill does:
- Bans the sale of ALL flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
- Adds an excise tax of 75% of wholesale on e-cigarettes, bringing parity with cigarettes in the state. The tax applies to devices as well.
- Requires private insurers, the Group Insurance Commission, and MassHealth to provide coverage for tobacco use cessation counseling and all generic FDA approved tobacco cessation products with at least one product available with no out of pocket costs.
- Restricts the sale of vapes/e-cigarettes with nicotine content greater than 35 mg per ml to adult only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars.
- Increases the retailer fine for sales to minors from $100, $200 and $300 for first, second and third violations respectively to $1,000, $2,000 and $5,000.
- Adds a penalty for retailers who have their vape/e-cigarette or tobacco license suspended or revoked for selling untaxed products requiring the state lottery director to suspend their license to sell lottery tickets or shares issued to the retailer.
- Effective date for flavored vape/e-cigarette ban, increased retailer fines for sales to minors is immediately upon passage; insurance mandates go into effect January 1, 2020.
- Effective date for flavored tobacco ban is June 1, 2020
Current Massachusetts laws specific to tobacco can be found on Mass.gov.