As we head into Independence Day weekend, we wanted to post an update on some of our legislative and advocacy victories over the past year.
In the early winter, Boston joined almost 90 cities and towns across Massachusetts to set the minimum age to purchase tobacco at 21. With Boston joining the T-21 movement, more than 50 percent of the state’s population now lives in cities and towns where you must be 21 years old to purchase tobacco products.
In May, we were able to add to the local T-21 push when Brockton, Carver, Chelsea, Essex , Falmouth, Gloucester, Hadley, Halifax, Marblehead, Norfolk, North Adams, North Attleboro, Plainville, Shelburne, Southampton, Sunderland and Tewksbury also put policies in place restricting tobacco sales to those 21 years of age and older. A total of 324,199 residents live in these communities.
In June, Great Barrington, Lowell, Stoughton and Worcester adopted the T-21 policy, adding an additional 317,365 residents. As of today, 121 of the 351 cities and towns in the state now have T-21 laws. We are confident that this momentum will help us pass the Statewide Tobacco 21 bill by July 31.
We were also successful in leading a campaign to secure a $500,000 appropriation for stroke education and awareness, including an earmark of $200,000 to support the state stroke registry. We also led a veto override campaign in July of 2015.
Just yesterday, we secured an additional $620,000 for stroke funding in the final budget that is on its way to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk. We also secured $100,000 for Healthy Food Financing in the budget.
For a number of years, we have been working on “Complete Streets,” a grant program to redesign streets in a way that makes them safer and more efficient for multiple modes of transportation. The State Transportation Improvement Program will be dedicating a total of $110 million over the next five years to programs and projects to improve access to safe bicycle and pedestrian programs that will help people who walk, bike, run and roll do so more safely.
Lastly, we saw success in our efforts to make CPR a graduation requirement in the Worcester, Springfield, and Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional school districts. These three school districts represent 3,169 high school graduating seniors who will learn the fundamentals of CPR before they graduate. We have also identified an additional 26 school districts with over 12,000 annual graduates to focus on in the coming year.
Unlike most states, nearly all curriculum decisions in Massachusetts are decided at the local level, which means we have to work with local school superintendents and school committees to implement CPR graduation requirements in school districts across the state. It took a true team effort to get this done, and without our volunteer’s dedication and outreach we would not be making the progress that we are.
The state’s legislative session does not end until July 31. We will be working on the following policies over the next month.
- Statewide Tobacco 21
- Healthy vending in state buildings
- $6 million for Healthy Food Financing
- A comprehensive stroke system of care
- Quality physical education
- AEDs in all public schools