BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate approved on Thursday a bill to ban tobacco sales for people under 21. The higher age for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products across the state is already in effect in Boston and other 100 cities and towns, according to The Washington Post.

After Hawaii, Massachusetts is the second state to raise the minimum age from 18 to 21 for purchasing tobacco and other states are considering the decision, which would help eliminate tobacco in high school and middle social networks given that teens don’t tend to socialize with people over 21, according to Democrat Sen. Jason Lewis.

Brian Vincent poses in front of a large display of tobacco products at Vincent’s Country Store in Westminster on Nov. 6. Local officials are contemplating what could be a first: a blanket ban on all forms of tobacco and e-cigarettes, leaving some shop owners fuming. Credit: Elise Amendola/AP

The legislation, approved on a 32-2 vote, sets new regulations for electronic cigarettes. Vaping is no longer allowed in places where smoking is otherwise banned, the Post reported. In addition, the bill prohibits tobacco sales in pharmacies and other health care establishments.

“Young people whose brains are still developing and haven’t reached full maturity are particularly vulnerable to nicotine addiction,” said Lewis, principal author of the bill.

Under the bill, stores still selling tobacco to people under 21 would be forced to pay fines from $100 to $300.

Without debate, senators added an amendment that prohibits anyone under 18 to smoke or own tobacco products. If teens are caught with tobacco, police would have to notify their parents but no other penalties would be added and the infraction would not result in any criminal record.

The bill advocates pointed to research that shows most smokers first tried a cigarette as teens. In contrast, Westfield Republican Sen. Donald Humason, one of the two senators who voted against the legislation, said he had never tried tobacco and that he didn’t consider as a right to tell a law-abiding adult what to do.

The other bill opponent, Jon Hurst, argued that the legislation would hurt many retailers and pointed out that the most affected would be smaller stores near borders with nearby states where purchase at age 18 is still legal.

Hurst, president of The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, suggested his organization might support the new requirement only if lawmakers assured that cities and towns wouldn’t have the possibility to take further steps in regulating tobacco products, the Post reported.

Bills that lift the age for purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 have been filed in California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. In New Jersey, a tobacco-21 bill was approved earlier this year but Gov. Chris Christie decided not to sign it.

Source: Washington Post