City’s proposal raises age to purchase tobacco

The City is taking steps to raise the minimum age to buy all tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, to 21, according to a press release from the Mayor’s Office.

Boston has already seen a reduction in youth cigarette use from 15.3 percent to 7.9 percent, according to statistics from 2005 to 2013. The national average is 15.7 percent. The tobacco industry may have noticed this shift and has been increasingly targeting youth through pricing, marketing, and flavoring, according to the press release.

“The flavor restriction is important to me because I see a lot of other young people who are tempted by these creative and tasty flavors every single day,” said Pelumi Aderogba, 17, a senior at Boston Trinity Academy, according to the press release. “The age restriction is good for teenagers like me because we are likely to have friends who are 18 and would be willing to buy these products for us.”

The proposal would also increase the age of admission to adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars to 21, and would prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products except for menthol in all retail outlets other than adult-only retail tobacco stores and smoking bars.

“We know the consequences of tobacco use are real and can be devastating,” said Mayor Martin Walsh, according to the press release. “These proposed changes send a strong message that Boston takes the issue of preventing tobacco addiction seriously, and I hope that message is heard throughout Boston and across the entire country.”

This is not the first step Walsh has taken to reduce tobacco use in Boston. In September, he signed an ordinance to prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products at event sites for professional, collegiate, high school or organized amateur sporting events.

“By raising the tobacco sale age to 21, Boston can continue its longstanding leadership in fighting tobacco and help make the next generation tobacco-free,” said Kevin O’Flaherty with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, according to the press release. “We know that 95 percent of adult smokers began smoking before they turned 21, and ages 18 to 21 are critical years when young people transition from experimenting with tobacco into becoming regular users. By moving forward with this proposal, Boston will reduce smoking and protect young people from this deadly addiction.”

The Board of Health is expected to vote on the changes on Dec. 17. If the changes are approved, they will become effective 60 days after passage.

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