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Massachusetts

Massachusetts localities as of March 30, 2018

Recent updates! – Tobacco 21 Progress – MA statewide bill tracker

On July 27, 2018, Massachusetts became the sixth state to increase the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products to 21!

Massachusetts is an inspiring case in the effort to raise the tobacco age to 21. This began in the town of Needham, where the tobacco age was set at 21 in 2005. The result was an immediate, significant drop in both current use and frequent use of cigarettes among youth, compared to both their previous rate, and the rates of surrounding communities.

This drop occurred despite the relative ease of finding alternative sources of cigarettes, as the neighboring towns had not yet enacted similar measures. Since then, a growing number of communities in Massachusetts have followed Needham’s path, primarily due to the work of Dr. Jonathan Winickoff and Dr. Lester Hartman. Simply by presenting the case for Tobacco 21 to local health boards, Dr. Winickoff and Dr. Hartman have helped institute a tobacco age of 21 in over 175 different communities around Massachusetts. Combined these municipalities account for over 70% of the population. The success that these two have had helps illustrate the potential influence of a small group advocates in implementing Tobacco 21. Thanks to their efforts, Tobacco 21 is now supported by Tobacco Free Mass, and a statewide bill was introduced in 2015, 2016, and 2017, all with dozens of sponsors.

House Bill 2021: 2015 bill to raise the tobacco age to 21 in Massachusetts

Currently, Massachusetts has an well below national average rate of high school smoking, and a near average rate of adult smoking. However, there are still an estimated 103,000 children now under the age of 18 that will eventually die early due to smoking, with 2,500 children becoming daily smokers each year.

The result is an annual health care cost of $4.08 billion that is directly caused by smoking. Complimenting the efforts of these local governments is the state’s per pack tax of $3.51, one of the highest in the nation. The state currently only spends 10.2% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, but the low-cost approach of local government regulation helps offset the negative effects of this lack of funding.

When the Massachusetts legislature raised the minimum legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 statewide, it also preempted local governments from enacting ordinances raising the minimum legal sales age above that set by the state.  The legislature did not preempt local governments from passing local ordinances establishing a tobacco retail license.

Recent Updates

  • 12/2018 – Dalton passes a Tobacco 21 policy! There are now 237 local T21 policies representing 90.0% of the state population.

  • 12/2018 – Fairhaven passes a Tobacco 21 policy!

  • 12/2018 – Hubbardton passes a Tobacco 21 policy!

  • 12/2018 – Manchester passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance!

  • 12/2018 – Wenham passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance!

  • 12/2018 – Ipswich passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance.

  • 12/2018 – Amesbury passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective December 28, 2018).

  • 12/19/2018 – Salisbury passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective December 28, 2018).

  • 12/2018 – Swansea passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective December 30, 2018).

  • 12/1/ 2018 – Fall River passes a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective December 30, 2018).

  • 11/2018 – Bourne becomes the 187th locality in Massachusetts to pass a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective December 28, 2018). There are now 188 local Tobacco 21 policies.

  • 11/01/2018 – Dracut becomes the 186th locality in Massachusetts to pass a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective 12/15/2018)

  • 10/2018 – Haverhill passed a Tobacco 21 ordinance (effective 12/15/2018).

  • 07/27/2018 – Massachusetts becomes the sixth state to raise the minimum legal sales age of tobacco products to 21 (effective 12/30/2018).

  • 5/9/2018 – 180 cities and counties have passed Tobacco 21 ordinances in Massachusetts. This covers half of the cities and towns in the state and protects over 72% of the population.

  • 3/5/2018 – 170 cities and counties have passed Tobacco 21 ordinances in Massachusetts

  • 1/11/2018 – 165 cities and counties have passed Tobacco 21 in Massachusetts, covering over 65% of the state's population

  • 10/5/2017 – 160 cities and counties have passed Tobacco 21 in Massachusetts, covering over 65% of the state's population.

  • 5/10/2017 – Over 150 cities and counties have passed Tobacco 21 in Massachusetts, covering over 60% of the state's population.

  • 1/23/2017Senator Jason Lewis and 28 other co-sponsors introduce Senate Bill 1218. The bill would increase the minimum legal sales age of all tobacco products from 18 to 21 statewide; referred to the Joint Committee on Public Health.

Show All Updates

For More Information, Please Contact:

  • Kevin O’Flaherty
  • Tobacco Free Kids
  • Played a direct role in shaping NYC’s historic T21 legislation.
    Director Northeastern Region
  • KOflaherty@Tobaccofreekids.Org

Local Partners:

  • Jonathan Winickoff, MD
  • Leading the multiple local health board efforts toward tobacco at age 21 Associate Professor Harvard University
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy
  • Jwinickoff@Mgh.Harvard.Edu
  • Massachusetts Tobacco 21 Local Partner
  • Lester Hartman, MD
  • Leading multiple local health board efforts toward tobacco at age 21 Medical Home Director www.wmpeds.com
  • Westwood Mansfied Pediatric Associates
  • Lester.Hartman@Childrens.Harvard.Edu
  • Massachusetts Tobacco 21 Local Partner

Other Helpful Resources:

Tobacco Free Kids Massachusetts

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a leading force in the fight to reduce tobacco use and its deadly toll in the United States and around the world. Our vision: A future free of the death and disease caused by tobacco.

American Lung Association State Report Card

The ALA ‘State of Tobacco Control’ report tracks progress on key tobacco control policies at the state and federal levels, and assigns grades based on tobacco control laws and regulations in effect as of January 2, 2014.

SLATI State Information Massachusetts

SLATI (State Legislated Actions on Tobacco Issues) is an extensively researched and invaluable source of information on tobacco control laws and policy, and is the only up-to-date and comprehensive summary of state tobacco control laws.


The Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation and the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids support these four principles for Tobacco 21 ordinances:

  1. Include all tobacco and nicotine products, specifically e-cigarettes. The only exceptions would be FDA recognized nicotine replacement products (gum, patch, etc.) intended for cessation.
  2. Include significant enforcement provisions against illegal sales as research shows that consistent enforcement is of critical importance.
  3. Not include any pre-emption against local authority in more stringent regulation of tobacco or other nicotine product sales, secondhand smoke, or e-cigarette vapor.
  4. Ideally not include possession, usage, or purchase (PUP) penalties that result in criminal records, and instead place the onus on the purveyors of these addictive products.

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