Massachusetts Senate prepping to tackle tobacco purchasing age, other bills


BOSTON >> The Senate on Thursday lined up three bills to be debated when it returns in a full formal session next week, including one that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21.

The bill (S 2152) dubbed "An act to protect youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction" would raise from 18 to 21 the age restriction on purchasing tobacco products, though individuals who turn 18 before Jan. 1, 2017 would be allowed to continue to purchase tobacco products. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has offered a redrafted version of the bill (S 2234).

The bill would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in places like schools, restaurants and workplaces where cigarettes are already banned; require child-resistant packaging on e-cigarettes; ban tobacco vending machines and require the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth and the Group Insurance Commission.

"I think we will have strong bipartisan support for the legislation," Sen. Jason Lewis, a Winchester Democrat who co-chairs the Public Health Committee, told the News Service earlier this week. "We already have many of our cities and towns that have taken these steps at the municipal level."

Needham was the first municipality in the country to ban tobacco sales to people under 21, in 2005. Since then, nearly 100 Massachusetts communities have followed suit, most lifting the minimum age from 18 to 21 and some raising it to 19, Lewis told the News Service.

During its informal session Thursday, the Senate also queued up a bill (H 3806) passed the House unanimously last year to help prevent the theft of metals from job sites, vacant homes and public spaces. The Ways and Means Committee has put forth a redrafted version of the bill (S 2235).

The bill, which is similar to one passed two years ago by the Senate, establishes a registration process for any person engaging in secondary raw metals dealing and a licensing procedure for those involved in secondary consumer metals dealing. It also prohibits those dealers from accepting certain items, like street signs, beer kegs, manhole covers, high voltage transmission line cables and cemetery plaques.

And a bill (S 533) regulating the licensing and sale of a limited line of insurance for self-storage facilities was also teed up Thursday by the Senate. The Ways and Means Committee introduced its redrafted version of the bill (S 2233).

For all three bills, the Senate set a deadline of 5 p.m. on Monday, April 25 for members to file amendments electronically with the Senate clerk's office.


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