Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Tobacco products coming in flavors such as peach and grape appeal mainly to kids, health experts said Monday before the City Council. (Photo: yourethecure.org)

We strongly encourage the City Council to take a leadership role in protecting young people from tobacco addiction by revising Cambridge’s Municipal Code Chapter 8.28 “Restrictions on Youth Access and Sale of Tobacco Products and Smoking In Workplaces and Public Places.” We, as well as many other parents, school administrators and health professionals are concerned about youth using tobacco and nicotine delivery products such as e-cigarettes. There has been an influx of new and addictive products that are distinctly attractive to young people because they are cheap, sweet and easy to get. Proposed ordinance changes in Cambridge would help prevent youth from accessing and becoming addicted to these harmful products. Many of these changes are urgent – for example, there is currently no minimum age to purchase e-cigarettes in Cambridge, meaning children can legally purchase these addictive nicotine products.

LetterTobacco companies have ensured that cherry-, grape- and cotton candy-flavored tobacco products are widely available in convenience stores, pharmacies, gas stations and supermarkets. Today, more young people in Massachusetts are using these products vs. using cigarettes. With over 90 percent of current adult smokers starting before they were 18, reducing youth access to cheap, flavored tobacco products is critical in preventing future generations from taking up smoking. According to a “person on the street” survey conducted by the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School’s 84 Chapter, 33 percent of individuals who reported smoking an e-cigarette in the past 30 days were under 18, and more than 80 percent of respondents thought that youth would be attracted to e-cigarette flavors.

Federal law prohibits the sale of flavored and/or single cigarettes. Flavored cigarettes were considered ‘starter’ products for youth because they attracted young people who would become lifelong smokers. Currently, products popular with young people, such as mini-cigars and e-cigarettes, are exempt from flavor and packaging restrictions and are sold as singles and in a wide variety of flavors. Key components of Cambridge’s proposed ordinance would limit the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products to adult-only establishments, as well as raise the age of legal sale of tobacco products. Cambridge would be the ninth city in Massachusetts to limit the sale of flavored products to adult-only establishments, following precedents set by New York City and Providence, R.I.

Elizabeth Tanefis and Katherine Connolly, Metro-Boston Tobacco Free Community Partnership at Health Resources in Action