BOSTON (WWLP) – It may soon be more difficult for most high school seniors to get their hands on tobacco products.
State Sen. Jim Welch, (D) West Springfield, said, “Often in high schools, and among social groups in teen groups, those age groups are co-mingling and children under the age of eighteen are getting their hands on cigarettes.”
The state Senate Thursday voted to raise the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21. Westfield State Senator Don Humason was one of the two votes against the measure; “I had to balance our interest as a government to protect our constituents with respecting the rights of adults to make their own decisions.”
Most Massachusetts residents already live in cities and towns where the tobacco purchasing age is 21. This legislation would make it the statewide standard.
The Retailers Association of Massachusetts argues that if teenagers want tobacco, they’ll find a way to get it. The association is worried that such a law would encourage consumers to spend their money in neighboring states, like Connecticut, where the legal age to buy cigarettes is still 18.
According to Ryan Kearney, the General Counsel at Retailers Association of Massachusetts, “Once someone’s in the store to buy tobacco, they’re also buying milk. They’re also buying newspapers; they’re buying lottery tickets. Those sales are going to go wherever that person goes to get the other items.”
The proposed law would only apply to people that turn 18 after January 1st of 2017. The bill now heads to the House. Hawaii is the only state in the country that raised the age to 21 statewide.