It's Spring, and things are buzzing at the (mostly virtual) State House! Friends and foes of tobacco control have filed several key pieces of tobacco legislation; the good list includes increasing tobacco taxes and closing the loophole for MassHealth tobacco cessation coverage. The bad would overturn the menthol provision of the new tobacco law and penalize possession of tobacco products. And then, there's always the state budget!

  • Budget for the Massachusetts Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program (MTCP): Governor Baker released his proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget in late January, it contained only $4,618,792, which is a $500,000 cut to the program, leaving it at roughly the level of the FY 2020 budget. But this fight is just beginning; we're at the beginning of a long budget process. The next step is for the House Ways and Means Committee to release its version of the budget, which is expected in April.
  • Cigarette and Cigar Tax: Sen. Hariette Chandler and Rep. Marjorie Decker filed bills that would increase the cigarette tax by $1.00 and increase the cigar tax from 40% to 80% of wholesale. Increases in tobacco prices through taxes have been shown to decrease tobacco use, especially among young people.

  • Closing MassHealth cessation benefit loophole: Sen. Jason Lewis and Rep. Christine Barber filed bills that would expand access to tobacco cessation counseling by allowing new categories of professionals to bill MassHealth for tobacco cessation, including dentists, behavioral and mental health counselors, and certified tobacco use cessation counselors.

Kick Butts Day is TODAY!

The young people have invited us to join in the celebration online from 4:00-4:30 today, March 31!

When you register, you'll see a starting time of 3:30--ignore that!  The 3:30 time is a training for the young people. See you at 4:00! 

Young people at a past, IRL Kick Butts Day event.

News you can use

  • A new study confirms the impact tobacco smoke has on young people, finding that kids who smoked or were exposed to secondhand smoke had higher blood pressure than those who weren't.
  • A meta-study reinforces the conclusion that smoking, even current smoking or former smoking, significantly increases the risk of COVID-19 severity and death. (This is a corrected link.)

      If a tree falls in the forest...

      When the landmark tobacco legislation passed in 2019, the buzz was all about the menthol provision, so another major piece went under the radar. The legislation also made tobacco cessation medication and counseling much easier for smokers to get through their insurance--but only if they know to ask about it. Earlier this month, Commonwealth Magazine reported that a 2017 law increasing access to birth control wasn't being used, mainly because no one knew about it--something that health plans are now working to remedy.

      Clearly, a benefit is only as good as its publicity. Tobacco Free Mass is committed to making sure that healthcare providers and tobacco users know about the new tobacco benefit--and soon. We're exploring different avenues to make sure that happens. If you have access to networks that could help us reach the right people, please let us know. And any ideas?  Send those along, too!  We'll keep you updated and let you know how you can help spread the word! 

      Local Action

      The Sample Regulation Restricting the Sale of Tobacco and Vape Products has been updated for 2021!  This is the guidance document for cities and towns looking to improve their tobacco control policies, and it lends insight into what can be done at the municipal level.  If your city or town is interested in updating its tobacco sales regulations, free technical assistance is available.  Please contact DJ Wilson for more information.

      Membership Dues

      It's that time of year again!  Tobacco Free Mass membership dues notices will be sent to you in April. Tobacco Free Mass receives the vast majority of its support through membership dues; the rest comes from event sponsorships, occasional small grants, and donations. Your contribution enables us to be independent, outspoken advocates for tobacco cessation and prevention. If you have any question about your membership dues, please contact Gwen Stewart.

      Upcoming Tobacco Free Mass Meetings

      Can't wait to see you at our upcoming meetings! Remember, we'll meet remotely for the foreseeable future.

      April 15 – Advocacy Committee meeting from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM on Zoom. To attend the meeting, you must register, which you can do with this link. ***Note shift to earlier time!***

      June 4 – Full Coalition meeting from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Zoom. To attend the meeting, you must register, which you can do with this link.

      June 4 – Advocacy Committee meeting immediately following the Full Coalition meeting, from 12:15 PM to 1:30 PM on Zoom. To attend the meeting, you must register, which you can do with this link.

      Download TFM's Meeting Calendar for 2021

      It's Spring!

      Green shoots are starting to emerge from the earth and things that were stuck are coming unstuck. Spring is pretty miraculous, when you think about it. Get outside and enjoy it!


      Gwendolyn Stewart

      Executive Director

      m: (617) 500.3449


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