(BOSTON)Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in voting to enact An Act protecting youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction. The new law raises the legal age to purchase tobacco statewide from 18 to 21 years of age, and further regulates vaping and the use of e-cigarettes.

“This legislation has the potential to promote public health across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Meschino. “In our communities as well as statewide, we have seen increased rates of tobacco use among our youth and young adults due to the growing popularity of vaping devices. This new law takes steps necessary to help keep children healthy.”

In addition to raising the age to purchase tobacco, the new law updates the Massachusetts’ Smoke-Free Workplace Law to include e-cigarettes and vapes, thereby ensuring that the use of all tobacco and vapor products is prohibited in establishments where the use of traditional tobacco is currently prohibited. The new law also prohibits the use of these products on school grounds, and prohibits their sale by healthcare institutions. The new law requires child-resistant packaging for liquid nicotine containers.

Tobacco use and nicotine use remain a leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in the Commonwealth, with more than $4 billion spent annually in Massachusetts on smoking-related healthcare costs. In 2012, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that 90 percent of smokers try smoking before age 18, and 75 percent of teen smokers continue to smoke into adulthood. Studies show the most effective way to lower smoking rates is to prevent teenagers from trying tobacco in the first place; the Institute of Medicine released a 2015 study that found that increasing the minimum age of legal access to tobacco products to 21 years old will prevent or delay initiation of tobacco use by adolescents and young adults.

This legislation will take effect December 31, 2018. Individuals who turn 18 before this date will be exempt from the Act’s minimum sales age requirement.