Progress on the youth tobacco prevention legislation, keeping our fingers crossed on the MTCP budget, and a reminder about our policy forum on September 6!
Status of Tobacco Legislation
- The youth tobacco prevention bill passes the Senate! The Senate passed the passed Tobacco Free Mass’ priority legislation last week by a margin of 33-3! This comes just weeks after the House passed the measure overwhelmingly, with a 146-4 vote. There are a few differences between the House and Senate bills that will need to be worked out, but we are hopeful that the bill will be on the Governor’s desk in the coming weeks. We’ll let you know as it progresses—there may be a need for some calls and emails to keep the process moving! For now, send your senator a note of thanks (see article below). Here’s a little history: the bill was reported out of the Joint Committee on Public Health in January, moved to the Joint Committee on Health Care Finance, and spent the spring in the House Ways and Means Committee before being voted out favorably and passing the House on May 9. It was in Senate Ways and Means before being sent to the full Senate for a vote. 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. Thank you for all the calls and emails—they are paying off!
- The Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP) budget is headed for conference committee. The House and Senate are currently working out the differences in their versions of the state budget in conference committee. They’ve passed a supplemental budget to give themselves time past the June 30 deadline, so stay tuned! As a reminder, the House funded the program at a $500,000 increase over the current fiscal year, but the Senate cut it by 10% from the current fiscal year (a $360,000 decrease). If the House’s version makes it through, it would be the first increase in over a decade. If the Senate prevails and there’s a cut, MTCP will need to eliminate key programming. Realistically, level funding from the current fiscal year is not enough to sustain the program because of the added work from Juul and other new tobacco products. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s a recap of what’s happened so far: The governor’s proposed a 10% cut to the program. House Ways and Means proposed level funding to the current fiscal year, which $3,718,872. The full House voted to increase the line by $500K to put the budget at $4,218,872. Senate Ways and Means cut the program’s budget by 10% (same as the Governor’s proposal), and that passed the Senate. 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.
Save the Date! TFM’s E-Cigarette Policy Forum is on September 6!
Tobacco Free Mass’ policy forum will feature a discussion with national experts on policy impacting youth e-cigarette use. It will be held in on September 6, in lieu of our quarterly full coalition meeting. Dues-paying organizations will receive 1-2 free tickets to the event. We’ll have a roundup of the year’s events and we’ll honor an exemplary tobacco control advocate with the Blake Cady Award. The event will run from 9:30 to noon, with the speaking program running from 10:00-11:30 on Thursday, September 6 at the Massachusetts Medical Society. Light refreshments will be provided. Make sure that the morning of September 6 is marked on your calendar, and stay tuned for details!
- This Patriot Ledger article on the youth tobacco prevention legislation ran in many of the Wicked Local/Gatehouse Media papers. In it, TFM member Cheryl Sbarra issues a strong reminder that the tobacco companies are the bad actors, not the young people they’re trying to hook on their products.
- Definitely listen to the interview about JUUL with Dr. Jonathan Winickoff on WBUR from mid-June. He does an excellent job explaining what all the concern is about and why this is an issue we need to address. It’s quite engaging—the 15 minutes fly by.
- Maura Healey sent a letter to Superintendents about Juul in which she equates Juul’s offers of financial incentives to use their “prevention education programs” to the same tactics used by the tobacco industry and encourages schools to keep the tobacco industry out of their schools. It’s a great read, and something worth sharing with anyone who works with young people.
- In this blog post on San Francisco’s flavor ban, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network congratulates the city on banning menthol and talks about the potential impact.
Thank your Senator!
- Take a moment to thank your State Senator for passing the youth tobacco prevention legislation last week! It’s a quick call or email, and it will go far to let them know you notice and appreciate their vote. You can locate your senator’s contact information here. You could say something like “thank you so much for voting YES on Senate Bill 2571: An Act to protect youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction. I appreciate your support on this important issue!” See? Truly, one of the easiest, most feel-good thing you’ll do today. The only “nays” were Senators Fattman, Tran, and Humason.
Save the Date! TFM’s E-Cigarette Policy Forum is on September 6!
Our policy forum will be held in on September 6, in lieu of our quarterly full coalition meeting. The event will feature a discussion with national experts on policy impacting youth e-cigarette use. Dues-paying organizations will receive 1-2 free tickets to the event. We’ll have a roundup of the year’s events and honor an exemplary tobacco control advocate with the Blake Cady Award. The event will run from 9:30 to noon, with the speaking program running from 10:00-11:30 on Thursday, September 6 at the Massachusetts Medical Society. Light refreshments will be provided. Make sure that the morning of September 6 is marked on your calendar, and stay tuned for details!
TFM Working Groups
- TFM’s E-Cigarette Working Group met on June 12. The group discussed how to help bolster DPH’s upcoming educational campaign and also talked about e-cigarette cessation. The group’s next meeting is scheduled for August 14 from 10:00-11:30 at the Massachusetts Medical Society in Waltham. If you would like to be a member of TFM’s E-Cigarette Working Group but are not on the list, please email me and I will put you in touch with Jonina Gorenstein and Annegret Klaua, who are heading up the working group!
- TFM’s Menthol Working Group held an exploratory meeting and is setting its next meeting, which will be held on July 16 from 1:00-3:00 at the Massachusetts Municipal Association in Boston. If you would like to attend the July meeting, please contact Chris Banthin, who’s heading up the TFM Menthol Working Group.
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 the three of the tobacco regulations being passed by the 351 municipalities in Massachusetts. These are the three main components of the youth tobacco prevention bill, so they are clearly popular measures!
- 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. 166 cities and towns have enacted this policy. Over 69% 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. 179 cities and towns have a MLSA of 21 and two have a MLSA of 19. This means that 74% of Massachusetts’ population lives in a municipality where the MLSA is 21!
- 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. 136 cities and towns have enacted this policy, covering 58% of the state’s population.
- And though it’s not part of the youth tobacco prevention bill, this local regulation does impact the sale of e-cigarettes, which are usually flavored: Restrict the sale of flavored tobacco to adult-only establishments. This policy prohibits the sale of all flavored tobacco products and flavored e-cigarettes, except for in qualified retail tobacco stores and “smoking bars.” 121 cities and towns have enacted this policy, covering 54% of the state’s population.
Information about local policies can be found on the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program’s website, MakeSmokingHistory.org.
Upcoming Tobacco Free Mass Meetings
- July 16 – Menthol working group from 1:00 to 3:00 at the Massachusetts Municipal Association in Boston.
- July 26 – Advocacy Committee meeting from 10:00 to 11:30 at The Strategy Group’s offices at 40 Court Street, 11th Floor, Boston.
- August 14 – E-cigarette working group from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM at the Massachusetts Medical Society in Waltham.
- August 23 – Advocacy Committee meeting from 10:00 to 11:30 at The Strategy Group’s offices at 40 Court Street, 11th Floor, Boston.
- September 6 – Policy Forum from 9:30 to Noon at the Massachusetts Medical Society in Waltham (this is in lieu of the September quarterly meeting).
- See the full calendar on our website, at tobaccofreema.org.
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Bill Loesch, a legendary Massachusetts tobacco control activist, passed away in mid-June. His legacy lives on through his daughter Cynthia and through his empowerment of a generation of young tobacco activists in Dorchester. Read his obituary for a glimpse into a life well-lived.