The state legislature is on its way to putting cigarettes and vape pens out of reach for anyone under the age of 21.
Nearly 70 percent of the state's population lives in cities or towns that have passed similar bylaws. Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo said earlier this week the time came to make the statewide change.
"At 21 you're not necessarily in High School, you're not necessarily passing along cigarettes that you're able to purchase onto younger people," said Public Health Committee House Chairwoman Kate Hogan.
Critics have said pushing up the tobacco age erodes the rights of 18, 19 and 20 year-olds, who are legal adults but won't be able to freely purchase substances they want to. Retailers have also pushed back, saying a higher age won't be as effective at stopping tobacco addiction as proponents believe.
"There's some that have said we're taking away liberties. Actually, I believe we're giving liberties. We're giving someone the freedom from being addicted from theses harmful effects of nicotine, ya know related illnesses," Dedham Rep. Paul McMurtry, one of the bill's original sponsors, told reporters before the House's session to pass the bill.
Convincing Speaker Robert DeLeo to allow a vote on the bill was the final hurdle proponents needed to clear to push the 21-year age limit into law. The vote came over one year after McMurtry assembled over half the entire Legislature as co-sponsors of his bill.
Now that the House has moved to up the tobacco age, the Senate, which has passed similar legislation in the past, is likely to follow suit.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday he supports the concept but won't commit to signing any legislation until he's seen the final language delivered to him by Democrats in the Legislature.
"It depends on which version ultimately makes it through the process. Conceptually, when [lawmakers] first started talking about it last year, we expressed support generally for the idea," Baker said.
Baker's Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders told supporters in 2017 that Baker would sign a 21-year age bill if it reached his desk.
If Baker signs the bill into law, the age limit would go into effect on July 1.