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MB at KBDLast week I was thrilled to join so many dedicated young people from all across the Commonwealth at my first Kick Butts Day at the State House. Kick Butts Day is an event that focuses on raising awareness on the dangers of tobacco–and how young people are fighting tobacco’s influence in their communities. Last week’s event was a chance to really shine a spotlight on this issue and on all of the hard work of so many of our dedicated young advocates.

This event was so important to me because as a physician, I have seen the devastating medical complications of tobacco use including heart disease, lung disease and premature and preventable death.  I am deeply concerned by the ways the tobacco industry targets young people by making their products cheap, sweet, and easy to get. The recent Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health states that 88% of all smokers started before the age of 18.  And nearly all smokers – a full 99% – started smoking before the age of 26.  We know if we can prevent young people from starting to smoke, it’s very unlikely that they’ll start when they’re older.

KBD kidsFor years, the industry has been pushing cheap, bubble gum and cherry crush flavored cigars, clearly targeted to getting young people attracted to the products.  But thanks to our elected leaders, local public health departments, and the advocacy of our compelling youth, we have fought back.  But with these wins, new marketing schemes and enticing, cheap, and flavor-filled products hit the shelves as a way to entice our community’s young people,now including e-cigarettes.

Let me be clear that the Department of Public Health opposes the unregulated sale, distribution and advertisement of electronic cigarettes, and we support all efforts to ensure that e-cigarettes cannot be sold to our Commonwealth’s young people.

We have made great progress in Massachusetts, and I’m proud to say that none of this could have been accomplished without all of the hard work of The 84, a statewide movement of youth fighting for a  tobacco-free Massachusetts. Since last Kick Butts Day, we’ve gone from 81 cities and towns with a ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies to 112, now covering 63% of the population.  In the last year, we have doubled the number of municipalities that prohibit the sale of cheap single cigars from 43 to 86, which means that 37% of the population of our state is now covered. And we’ve made great progress with the local regulation of e-cigarettes. A total of 150 cities and towns now prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors – covering more than half our population. That’s up from 106 the previous year.

Last week’s event was a wonderful chance to support the important work that The 84 chapters are doing to create healthier communities across Massachusetts. It was both a distinct honor and a genuine pleasure to celebrate these young people and the cause that’s so important to all of us. Working together, we can Make Smoking History!

Written By:


Commissioner of the Department of Public Health

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