BOSTON – Wednesday, September 18, 2019 – Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) is proposing regulations aimed at addressing vaping and tobacco use among youth in Boston. Under the proposal, mint and menthol nicotine and tobacco products will only be sold only in verified adult-only tobacco retailers. Staff will now move forward with an engagement process that will include a public comment period and public hearing before a Board of Health vote to approve the amendments.
“Teen vaping is an epidemic that is particularly alarming because we know that nicotine use at a young age can have the power to lead to a lifelong dependency. The data is undeniable in showing that these amendments would save lives,” said Mayor Walsh. “I believe that now is the time to act, and I thank our public health staff for bringing forward a proposal that will ensure Boston has some of the strongest regulations in the country to protect our young people.”
Boston continues to be a leader at taking steps at the local level to restrict youth access to tobacco and other nicotine products such as e-cigarettes, vapes and “e-juice,” making it among the first jurisdictions in the United States to regulate e-cigarettes and other nicotine products on equal footing with tobacco. In 2015, the Board of Health increased the sales age for nicotine and tobacco products to 21 and restricted the sale of the majority of flavored tobacco and nicotine products to adult-only tobacco retail locations.
“On behalf of the Board of Health, I am excited that we are moving to address both the long-standing issue of menthol tobacco use as well as the rapidly-emerging issue of youth nicotine use and vaping,” said Manny Lopes, chairman of the Board of Health and chief executive officer of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC). “I applaud Mayor Walsh’s leadership on this pressing public health issue and look forward to engaging with the community during the public comment period.”
Because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, its use increases the possibility of addiction, particularly to other tobacco products that can cause well-documented health consequences. Vaping products can also cause long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Among high school students who use e-cigarettes, use of any flavored e-cigarettes in 2018 was over 67 percent, and the current use of menthol- or mint-flavored e-cigarettes was over 51 percent.
The proposed regulatory amendments also seek to address long-standing disparities in tobacco use patterns and associated mortality from diseases such as heart disease, cancer and stroke. BPHC researchers found that among adults in Boston, black adults suffer the greatest burden of tobacco-related mortality of any ethnic or racial group. Tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African Americans – heart disease, cancer and stroke.
In addition to removing the exemption, the proposal strengthens retailer ID checking requirements and restricts the sale of products that attract young people. BPHC is also supporting Boston Public Schools in efforts to launch a district-wide public awareness prevention campaign focused on youth smoking and vaping, professional development training for teachers and staff, a comprehensive health education curriculum, and referrals to smoking cessation programs.
The Mayor’s Office of Health and Human Services and BPHC joined with the Codman Square Neighborhood Council and B.O.L.D. Teens to host a community forum on menthol tobacco and vaping in July 2019. More than 150 people, mostly youth, joined together for a conversation about the ways tobacco and nicotine use negatively impacted their health and their communities.
“Regulatory changes made over the last decade, combined with efforts to build strong partnerships with schools, health centers and other community organizations, have played important roles in reducing smoking among Boston residents,” said Boston Public Health Commission Executive Director Monica Valdes Lupi. “The marketing and retail practices of tobacco companies that have been used for decades to infiltrate our communities of color with menthol tobacco products are unacceptable, and the fact that similar tactics are being used now to target our kids with vaping products demands action.”
Further restricting the sale of menthol tobacco products would likely reduce tobacco use overall and particularly in communities of color, potentially reducing disparities in disease and premature death between Boston neighborhoods, and advancing Mayor Walsh’s Imagine Boston 2030 goal of reducing disparities in premature mortality between Boston neighborhoods.
With the Board’s recommendation to proceed, staff will now start a public engagement process that will include a public hearing on November 7 and a public comment period through November 8, 2019. Written comments can be submitted by email to [email protected].
ABOUT THE BOSTON PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSION
The Boston Public Health Commission, one of the country’s oldest health department, is an independent public agency providing a wide range of health services and programs. It is governed by a seven-member board of health appointed by the Mayor of Boston.
Public service and access to quality health care are the cornerstones of our mission – to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The Commission’s more than 40 programs are grouped into six bureaus: Child, Adolescent & Family Health; Community Health Initiatives; Homeless Services; Infectious Disease; Recovery Services; and Emergency Medical Services.