Status of Tobacco Legislation
- Omnibus bill voted out of Public Health Committee! Tobacco Free Mass’ priority legislation was reported out of the Joint Committee on Public Health earlier in the month. It is now in the Joint Committee on Health Care Finance, chaired by Rep. Peter Kocot and Sen. James Welch. The bill has a new 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 believe it should move out of this committee much more quickly than the last, so we are not asking for widespread action at this point. However, if you know anyone who lives in Rep. Kocot’s district in Northampton or Senator Welch’s in Springfield, ask them to contact the Chair who represents them and request that their committee move the bill out favorably.
- Governor Baker slashes MTCP funding for next fiscal year. The Governor’s budget, released last week, proposes funding the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) at $3,358,872, down $359,990 from $3,718,862 in the current fiscal year. This is a 10% cut and would reduce MTCP’s budget to the second lowest level since 1992, when it was created by Massachusetts voters through their approval of a 25 cent tobacco tax. 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. Stay tuned for ways you can help send a message to the Legislature to prevent this cut.
- Graphic warnings are still in play… sort of. Last week, a US District judge in Boston heard arguments in a lawsuit filed by national public health and medical groups seeking to force the FDA to finalize its plans to implement graphic warnings on cigarette packages. Way back in 2009, Congress passed a law requiring color warning labels that would take up 50% of package front and back and 20% of ads. After a challenge in 2012, the FDA has made little progress on a redesign, which is the reason for the lawsuit. The warnings are supposed to go into effect in September 2018, though the FDA says it will take a few more years. Keep your fingers crossed that the timeline gets back on track.
- The definitive report on e-cigarettes… kind of. The American Academy of Sciences released a study on e-cigarettes on January 23 that received a great deal of media attention. The study showed that E-cigarettes and other nicotine vaping products are addictive. The study further showed that these products can hook teens and young adults and raise their risk of becoming smokers. There is some potential for them to help adult smokers move away from conventional cigarettes, but their effectiveness has not yet been proven and there are still many unanswered questions about their health effects. Many organizations reacted to the study with statements affirming the findings concerning young people. Here are statements from three TFM members: the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, the American Heart Association, and the American Lung Association.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics has devoted a supplemental issue to tobacco and secondhand smoke and its effect on children. There are a ton of articles on recent research on policy, cessation, interventions, and more.
- iQOS: Philip Morris’ hip new marketing ploy. Move over Juul… get ready for the next sleek new tobacco product designed for young people: iQOS (pronounced EYE-kose). The product is sold abroad, but must gain FDA approval to be sold here in the US. This month, an FDA advisory panel said the company had not proved conclusively that that would result in less harm and disease. However, the panel agreed with the company’s claim that its smokeless cigarette reduces smokers’ exposure to harmful chemicals. The Washington Post’s story on the panel’s findings gives a good overview of the status and explains more about iQOS, too.
- Schools of public health reject tobacco industry sham organization. Philip Morris, the maker of iQOS, has spent nearly $1 billion on its Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, which it says supports research on ending smoking worldwide. Prominent schools of public health are not fooled. Neither is the American Lung Association’s CEO, who has a hot tip for the company.
- The American Lung Association released its yearly report card in January. The State of Tobacco Control 2018 report assigns grades to states and federal government on key policies proven to prevent and reduce tobacco use. Massachusetts received mixed grades.
- 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
- 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.
- 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. Please share with any eligible schools you think may be interested.