As Massachusetts lawmakers wrestle with a law governing the sale of recreational marijuana, they are reportedly considering including a provision raising the age in which residents can legally purchase tobacco in the state to 21. They should do so, for reasons of health and also of economic fairness.
The state smoking age is currently 18, although 140 of the state’s 351 towns and cities have raised that age to 21. The legal age for purchasing alcohol in the state is 21, and with the age requirement for marijuana yet to be established, advocates on Beacon Hill hope to set a uniform age of 21 in all three categories. ...
Opposition to raising the age to 21 in Berkshire municipalities has come from convenience store owners concerned that they would lose business to stores in border towns where the age is still 18. This issue would largely be addressed if the state age was uniformly raised to 21, although some communities bordering New York state towns where the age is 18 could lose business. When that issue came up in Egremont last year, Juliet Haas, the town’s Board of Health agent, replied that the health of residents had to come first, and health is indeed the overriding issue.
There will be pushback from the tobacco industry, but it is significant that the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which has 4,000 members and has actively opposed this effort in the past, will apparently not do so this year. While the association will not support it, Association President Jon B. Hurst told The Boston Globe it is likely to remain neutral, reflecting the trend in communities to raise the age to 21. “At some point you just want consistency across Massachusetts,” Mr. Hurst told The Globe.
Massachusetts would be the third state to raise the smoking age to 21, following Hawaii and California, which would be in keeping with the state’s image of itself as a strong advocate of healthy living. With Governor Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg all in support of the concept of raising the age to 21, and with the marijuana legislation providing a good opportunity, now is the time to do so.