Beacon Hill Victories: No Indoor Tanning for Minors, New Protections for Diabetic Students

BY RONNA WALLACE
MMS LEGISLATIVE CONSULTANT

No one under 18 years of age will be allowed to use a tanning facility in Massachusetts, under a new law recently signed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. Chapter 31 of the Acts of 2016 is the culmination of 10 years of advocacy to reduce the prevalence of skin cancer in young people.

Until now, Massachusetts law allowed young people under 14 years of age to use indoor tanning facilities if accompanied by a parent or guardian; those 14 to 17 years of age would have needed a parent or guardian’s consent. The MMS is a strong proponent of the new law, and it has long been on the record in support of limiting access to tanning facilities for young people.

Also nearing Gov. Baker’s desk is legislation that would create an Office of Health Equity to coordinate activities to eliminate racial and ethnic health and health care disparities.

The Office of Health Equity would be charged with evaluating the effectiveness of programs and interventions to eliminate health disparities, identifying best practices and model programs, and preparing an annual plan for the Commonwealth to eliminate disparities. The bill has already cleared the House and is currently pending before the Senate Ways and Means. The MMS presented written testimony in support of the bill at the public hearing last summer.

Another win for public health is the recent advancement of legislation to protect students with diabetes. H.417, “An Act Improving Students’ Access to Life Saving Treatments,” was reported out of the Joint Committee on Public Health and is now pending before the Health Care Financing Committee. The bill, sponsored by Louis L. Kafka (D-Stoughton) at the request of the MMS and the American Diabetes Association, would allow students to possess and self-administer glucose testing strips and insulin; it would also allow others to administer glucagon to diabetic students in emergency situations when the school nurse is unavailable. Parents would be required to give written permission that would allow their student to self-manage.

Lastly, the MMS is pushing for action on legislation to reduce tobacco use. Currently pending before the Public Health Committee are the following bills that are strongly supported by the MMS as positive steps to strengthen Massachusetts’ commitment to a smoke-free Commonwealth:

  • H.2021, “An Act Further Regulating the Sale of Tobacco Products to Teenagers,” would ban the sale of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and vaporizers, to any person under 21 years of age.
  • HB2050/SB1119, “An Act Further Modernizing Tobacco Control and Protecting the Health of Minors,” would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes, vaporizing devices, and related products anywhere smoking is prohibited.
  • H.1954/S.1137, “An Act Restricting the Sale of Tobacco Products at Health Care Institutions,”would ban the sale of tobacco products by health care institutions and pharmacies, and bar licensed health professionals from working in a professional capacity in locations where tobacco products are sold.

These important bills would go a long way towards reducing tobacco use by young people and ensuring that all individuals live free of secondhand smoke exposure. The MMS supports each of these bills individually and supports the advancement of a comprehensive bill that includes all the above provisions.

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