Boston May Raise the Tobacco Buying Age to 21

Mayor Marty Walsh is in favor of the policy, which will go to a vote next month.

Mayor Marty Walsh has announced his support for a policy that would raise the minimum tobacco buying age in Boston from 18 to 21.

Among other changes, the proposed policy would prohibit anyone under 21 from buying tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes; ban those under 21 from entering tobacco stores and smoking clubs; and prevent the sale of flavored tobacco outside of tobacco stores and smoking clubs. The legislation is aimed at preventing teenagers from taking up smoking, since studies have shown that around 90 percent of habitual smokers report starting at age 18 or younger.

Several towns and cities in Massachusetts, including Cambridge, Waltham, and Needham, have voluntarily raised their buying ages already, in the face of research suggesting that bumping the legal age does, indeed, help curb teen smoking.

In a statement, Mayor Walsh said strengthening regulations would be a major win for public health efforts in Boston:

“It is our responsibility to do what we can to guide our young people and create a healthier future for all Bostonians” said Mayor Walsh. “We know the consequences of tobacco use are real and can be devastating. 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.”

Mayor Walsh’s announcement comes just months after City Council banned smokeless tobacco at all of the city’s baseball fields, including Fenway Park.

A public hearing on the issue will be held December 3. The Board of Health is expected to vote on the policy on December 17; if passed, the regulations would go into effect 60 days later.