February has been a busy month in the fight against tobacco here in Massachusetts! As we move into March, the pace doesn’t show any signs of letting up. There’s been a lot of activity on the legislative front, some interesting studies being released on a variety of tobacco-related topics, and a couple of energetic groups organizing to tackle larger tobacco issues. Local policy action continues to move forward, and Kick Butts Day is just around the corner!
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 is now in House Ways and Means 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. We are watching the bill closely and will let you know when action is needed.
- Governor Baker slashes MTCP funding for next fiscal year. Please act *now* on the alert we sent out last week! Once you’re done, please share the action alert with your colleagues, people on your distribution lists, and anyone else who cares about tobacco. The Governor’s budget proposes funding the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) at $3,358,872. This is a 10% cut and will seriously impact the program. 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. 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’re on social media, please retweet and repost our alerts!
- Tobacco tricks in the federal budget. During the federal budget discussions, some members of Congress are attempting to attach policy provisions called riders that would benefit the tobacco industry. One of the riders would weaken the FDA’s new rule by exempting thousands of e-cigarettes, cigars and other products from a scientific review by the FDA. Another rider would completely exempt certain cigars. Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids has an action alert on their website; disregard the date—calls are still timely.
- TFM’s E-Cigarette Working Group will have its first meeting on March 7 at 10:00 at ACS in Framingham. This will be the inaugural meeting, so if you’re working on the issue and want to be involved, please attend. The meeting’s agenda is attached to this email.
- The Statewide Cessation Implementation Group is putting out a call for people interested in working on the topic of smoking cessation for adults with mental illness. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey System data demonstrate that individuals with mental illness smoke at a rate of 33.1% in Massachusetts. While some cessation programs already exist, obstacles remain for addressing the environment within which individuals with mental illness use tobacco. Please see the PDF flyer attached to this email for details.
- Tobacco Free Mass is back on Facebook! We’ve been active on Twitter for a while now, but our Facebook presence was kind of quiet. Not anymore! We’re back, so if you are on Facebook, please take a look and like us.
- Facebook: @tobaccofreemass
- Twitter: @tobaccofreemass
- Website: tobaccofreema.org
- The British Medical Journal published a meta-analysis article earlier this month on the coronary impact of light smoking, which found a clear connection between even one cigarette a day and major cardiovascular risk. The accompanying editorial is excellent, and it goes on to make strong points about the implication of the study on e-cigarettes, secondhand smoke, and more. The language in there is very helpful.
- The CBS Morning News on Monday devoted a five-minute segment to E-cigarettes and their health effects on teens, in which they also talk about industry marketing. It’s worth watching and sharing.
- The MMWR from February 16 is entitled “Reasons for Electronic Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students” and listed the top reasons as: “friend or family member used them,” “they are available in flavors, such as mint, candy, fruit, or chocolate,” and “they are less harmful than other forms of tobacco, such as cigarettes.”
- The Globe had an article earlier this month about how lower-income, less-educated people quit smoking at lower rates. It included an analysis of smoking by different types of mental illness. For a local angle, MTCP has information on who smokes in Massachusetts and who quits in Massachusetts.
- 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.
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 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. 161 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. 167 cities and towns have a MLSA of 21 and two have a MLSA of 19. This means that over 70% of Massachusetts’ population lives in a municipality where the MLSA is 21!
- Prohibit the sale of blunt wraps. States that no one can sell or distribute blunt wraps, which are defined as any tobacco product manufactured or packaged as a wrap or as a hollow tube made wholly or in part from tobacco that is designed or intended to be filled by the consumer with loose tobacco or other fillers (often marijuana). 153 cities and towns have enacted this policy.
- 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, MakeSmokingHistory.org.
Upcoming Tobacco Free Mass Meetings
- 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.
- NEW!! March 7 – E-cigarette Working Group meeting from 10:00 to 11:30 at ACS in Framingham.
- March 22 – 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
- See the full calendar on our website, at tobaccofreema.org.
Please help us spread the word about these postings with anyone who you think would be a good fit. And please send us your tobacco-related job postings to share here!
- Tobacco Cessation Program Specialist (statewide) – Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program
- Project Associate — Tobacco Free Community Capacity Building Program — HRiA
- Tobacco Campaign Director – Corporate Accountability
- Truth is putting out grants again this year for college campuses looking to go smoke-free. An informational webinar is scheduled for March 7. Please share with any eligible schools you think may be interested.