Lawmakers push to raise Massachusetts smoking age to 21

95 percent of adult smokers start smoking before the age of 21

BOSTON (WWLP)-National data shows that 95 percent of adult smokers start smoking before the age of 21. State lawmakers hope to bring that number down by raising the legal smoking age to 21.

Over 9,000 Massachusetts residents die each year from tobacco-related diseases, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Most of them started smoking before the age of 21.

“If we can get it out of kids hands and we don’t start them from smoking then we would prevent a number of heart attacks,”said Allyson Perron Drag from the American Heart and American Stroke Association.

More than 100 lawmakers support a bill to raise the statewide legal age for purchasing tobacco products, like cigarettes, from 18 to 21.

Susan DeCristofaro, a nurse at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, teaches 6th grade tobacco education. She told 22News many children live around the affects nicotine addiction.

“Some of them say, ‘my whole family smokes. I don’t think they’ll ever give it up,” DeCristofaro said.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of premature death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Southwick resident, Ann Ottalagana, runs Freedom from Smoking programs at American Lung Association that help adults quit smoking.

“By increasing the age for purchasing tobacco products, we can prevent many youth from starting to purchase tobacco products in the first place,” Ottalagana said.

Marc Hymovitz, Director of Government Relations for the American Cancer Society, told 22News that big tobacco companies are targeting your children.

“They have products now with fruity flavors, cotton candy,” said Hymovitz. “That’s their next generation of nicotine addicted individuals that are going to keep the tobacco industry in business.”

151 Massachusetts communities have already raised the legal smoking age to 21, according to Hymovitz.

The bill would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free workplaces. Advocates told 22News that some e-cigarettes have a higher percent of nicotine than regular cigarettes.

Governor Charlie Baker said in a statement to 22News that he “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.”