Sen. Lesser Welcomes $70K State Grant to Springfield to Promote Youth Health, Reduce Tobacco Use

Lesser: “Springfield has been at the forefront of efforts to protect young people from the harmful effects of smoking”

BOSTON — Senator Eric P. Lesser on Thursday welcomed an announcement by the Department of Public Health that Springfield had received a $70,000 state grant to promote efforts that reduce youth tobacco use and protect the public from secondhand smoke.

Springfield is one of 182 cities and towns that received grants to strengthen capacity to enact and enforce policies and environmental changes that will reduce tobacco use, protect the public from secondhand smoke and protect youth from exposure to tobacco and vaping industry tactics.

There are now a variety of tobacco products marketed to young people — including “vaping” devices, e-cigarettes and flavored cigarettes — meant to entice teenagers to begin using them.

The grant funding, a combination of state and federal dollars, will help local communities establish comprehensive tobacco control programs based on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Best Practices designed to:

  • Protect youth from exposure to tobacco and vaping industry tactics and prevent youth initiation of tobacco/nicotine use
  • Protect residents from secondhand smoke
  • Ensure all Massachusetts users of tobacco/nicotine have access to cessation resources
  • Identify tobacco-related disparities and target efforts toward those disproportionately affected

“Springfield has been at the forefront of efforts in the state to protect young people from the harmful effects of smoking, and now this grant will boost the City’s initiatives to educate the public about these dangers and design public spaces to discourage tobacco use. I learned about the campaign to raise the tobacco age from high schoolers working with the Mason Square Health Task Force in Springfield. Because of them, I was proud to vote for the bill combating the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine, and I’m glad that the Governor has signed it,” said Sen. Lesser, who has supported the efforts of local high school activists to raise the age for tobacco sales.

Last week, Gov. Baker signed H. 4486, An Act protecting youth from the health risks of tobacco and nicotine addiction, which raises the legal age to buy tobacco products statewide from 18 to 21. The new law broadens existing prohibitions on public smoking to include e-cigarettes and prohibits the use of tobacco products on the grounds of any public or private primary, secondary or vocational school. Additionally, pharmacies, hospitals or other entities that offer health care services or employ any licensed health care providers are prohibited from selling tobacco products.

The bill had been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

Tobacco use and nicotine addiction is responsible for more than $4 billion in annual healthcare costs in Massachusetts. Young people are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, and 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18, according to Sen. Lewis’ office.