There’s a New Effort to Raise Massachusetts’ Smoking Age to 21

With the marijuana debate underway, a legislator sees an opening on cigarettes.

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The debate over whether to raise the smoking age in Massachusetts to 21 could come back into the fray this year, as one legislator see passage of the marijuana law as an opening.

Rep. Paul McMurty tells the State House News Service that now could be the time to convince lawmakers to bump up the minimum age from 18. The new marijuana law prohibits use for those under the age of 21.

“We made incredible headway last session … it didn’t become a reality, but the conversations continue. We have every intention to refile again this session and now we think it’s more important than ever, especially with the passage of ballot question four and the increase in the rise of electronic delivery devices,” McMurty says. He sponsored a bill to increase the smoking age last year, but it failed.

A growing number of Massachusetts’ cities and towns, including Boston, have raised the smoking age on their own as a way to keep kids from picking up the habit. And that’s a big deal, considering that it costs more in the state to be a smoker than almost anywhere else, once you factor in the tax on tobacco and the long-term health consequences.

There are unintended side-effects of clamping down on cigarette sales, though. A recently released study found that increases in taxes on cigarettes led to a huge spike in black-market tobacco—nearly a third of cigarettes smoked here in 2014 were smuggled here from out of state, the study found.