Massachusetts becomes 6th state to pass Tobacco 21, 1st State to Prohibit Tobacco Sales in Pharmacies

Pharmacies, Policy Advocacy, Tobacco21, Youth

On July 27th, Massachusetts became the 6th state to raise the minimum legal sales age (MLSA) for tobacco to 21, and the first state to prohibit tobacco sales in pharmacies. Localities in Massachusetts have been pioneers in both the “Tobacco 21” movement and the tobacco-free pharmacy movement.

In 2005, Needham, Massachusetts was the first town in the US to enact a law raising the MLSA to 21. As a result, smoking rates decreased by 47%, three times as much in the four years following as rates in towns surrounding Needham, providing some of the first evidence of the impact of T21 policies. [34] Between then and passage of the statewide law, over 170 Massachusetts towns and counties had also raised the age, including Boston. 

Work to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies in the state began in the early 2000s with a youth-led group, Breath of Life Dorchester (BOLD)-Teens. In 2008, Boston became the the second city in the U.S. to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies, following San Francisco’s law passed earlier that year. Over the following 10 years, over 160 cities and towns in Massachusetts enacted similar bans, and in July 2018, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies, hospitals, or other healthcare institutions. Learn more about Massachusetts’ success in ‘Regulating Pharmacy Tobacco Sales: Massachusetts,’ in this case study from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis.

Prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies is an effective way to reduce tobacco retailer density, can encourage cessation, and it is a policy that has withstood legal challenges and enjoys broad support, both among pharmacists and the general public. Learn more about tobacco free pharmacy policies.