Massachusetts Lawmakers Say Yes to Higher Smoking Age

By: - July 20, 2018 12:00 am

Maine has joined four other states in barring the sale of cigarettes to people under 21. Massachusetts may be joining five other states in barring the sale of cigarettes to people under 21. The Associated Press

Massachusetts is poised to become the sixth state to boost the legal age to buy cigarettes to 21.

The Massachusetts Legislature gave its final approval to the measure Thursday and sent it to Republican Gov. Charlie Baker.

Lizzy Guyton, Baker’s communications director, said in an email that the governor “supports the concept of raising the legal age for tobacco sales to 21 years old to promote the health and safety of our young people, and looks forward to carefully reviewing any legislation that comes to his desk.”

If signed by the governor, the law would take effect Dec. 31.

It would prohibit the sale of tobacco products to anyone under 21, but would not apply to those who turn 18 by Dec. 30. They would be grandfathered in, although higher limits could still apply to them in cities that have passed “tobacco 21” laws without grandfathering.

Earlier this month, Maine became the fifth state to raise the legal age to 21. Hawaii and California were the first states to enact laws raising the smoking age, followed by New Jersey and Oregon.

In most states, the legal age to buy tobacco products is 18; in a few it is 19.

Supporters say raising the legal age to 21 will save lives and cut medical costs for states. Opponents say it would hurt small businesses, reduce tax revenue and violate the personal freedom of young adults who are legally able to vote and join the military.

In the past several years, a growing number of local governments, including many in Massachusetts, have acted on their own to hike the legal age to 21.

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Jenni Bergal

Jenni Bergal covers transportation, infrastructure and cybersecurity for Stateline. She has been a reporter at Kaiser and the Center for Public Integrity.