Renewed momentum on tobacco endgame

5 April 2024

By Action on Smoking and Health

Stoneham and Wakefield become the second and third towns in Massachusetts to pass Nicotine-Free Generation

In February 2024, the quest to end the tobacco epidemic suffered a blow when the new government in New Zealand rescinded their world-beating endgame law. But before the doors closed, the endgame horse had already escaped the barn. New Zealand caught the imagination of the world, and it is paying off.

On March 26, 2024, Stoneham became the second town in Massachusetts to pass a Nicotine-Free Generation (NFG) law. No one born after 2003 can ever be legally sold tobacco in Stoneham. This is the first town to do so after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously upheld a similar law in Brookline on March 16, 2024.

On March 27, 2024, Wakefield, MA passed the same law. Two in two days.

Three towns might not seem like much, but history raises our optimism. In the early days of the smokefree indoor air movement two decades ago, it was not long after the first town in Massachusetts passed a law banning smoking in all indoor public and workplaces before 217 other towns joined them. That prompted the state to act.

We hope, and expect a similar landslide now. Several other towns have already held or scheduled hearings on NFG. Expect the third domino in days or weeks, not months.

Since the New Zealand news, we’ve had another bright ray of light.

On March 20, 2024, a Smoke-Free Generation (SFG) law was introduced in the United Kingdom Parliament. SFG is a similar birthdate-based law that focuses on combustibles. If passed, it will ban sales to anyone born after 2008. And it looks likely to pass – both major parties and King Charles have endorsed the move.

The initial momentum of the tobacco endgame in Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, California was curtailed when COVID hit and captured the attention of the public health community. But it seems we are on the cusp of a new normal in the fight against tobacco.