Local ordinances, bylaws and regulations
Local regulations are enacted through community efforts, often guided by local boards of health. Many cities and towns in Massachusetts have passed tobacco and nicotine delivery product related provisions. These provisions fall into two broad categories:
- Restricting youth access and exposure to tobacco and nicotine delivery products
- Restricting public exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and e-cigarette vapor
However, nearly every local regulation on these subjects is unique. Many are posted on each respective municipality’s website, or can be obtained from your local board of health.
Learn more about tobacco and key local tobacco policies in your community.
See the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards’ sample regulation restricting the sale of tobacco products.
Massachusetts has many laws that govern tobacco:
Tobacco excise taxes
As of July 1, 2013, the excise tax imposed on cigarettes under M.G.L. 64C increased to $3.51 per pack. The cigar and smoking tobacco excise imposed by M.G.L. 64C increased from 30% to 40% of the wholesale price of the products, and smokeless tobacco products increased from 90% to 210% of the wholesale price.
Cigarettes are also required, under M.G.L. 64C, to be sold at a minimum price as determined by the Department of Revenue (DOR). DOR periodically updates the lowest price at which each cigarette brand may be sold.
Smoke-free Workplace Law
The Massachusetts Smoke-free Workplace Law prohibits smoking in schools, restaurants and bars, taxis, private offices, and other places of work. This law (MGL chapter 270, section 22, "An Act to Improve the Public Health in the Commonwealth"went into effect on July 5, 2004 to protect employees and the public from secondhand smoke and amends the 1988 Massachusetts Clean Indoor Air Law.
- Smoke-free Workplace Law Executive Summary PDF (Doc)
- Regulations Relative to the Smoke-free Workplace Law - 105 CMR 661 PDF (Doc)
In addition, many cities and towns have local smoke-free regulations that are stricter than the state law. For information about local tobacco-related regulations, contact your local health department/board of health.
If you observe a violation of the Smoke-Free Workplace Law, you can file a complaint. Learn how to report a Smoke-free Workplace Law or other tobacco related violation.
Official No Smoking signs and other relevant signage are available free of charge at the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse
Smoke-Free Law resources for Boards of Health
- FAQ: Private Club Exemptions to the Smoke-free Workplace Law PDF (Doc)
- FAQ: Smoke-free Workplace Law and Smoking in a Restaurants or Bars Outdoor/Patio Area PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Workplace Buffer Zones and Outdoor Spaces PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Smoking in Vehicles PDF (Doc)
- Municipal Buildings and Municipal Vehicles PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Bingo PDF (Doc)
- Acute Care Substance Abuse Treatment Center Exemption PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Colleges PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Cigar and Hookah Bars PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Taxis PDF (Doc)
- Questions About Multi-Unit Businesses PDF (Doc)
- Schools are considered workplaces under the Smoke-Free Workplace Law. Schools also create their own policies with regard to tobacco use on school property for students, staff and visitors.
- Schools looking for a resource on school tobacco policies, applicable laws and a sample tobacco policy can see the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards’ School Tobacco Policies: Applicable Laws and Sample Policy
- Public and Private Schools and The Massachusetts Smoke-Free Workplace Law(PDF) (DOC)
- Massachusetts Law regarding Student Use of Tobacco Products
Laws regarding tobacco sales to minors
It is illegal to sell tobacco products to persons under the age of 18 in Massachusetts, including e-cigarettes. Some cities and towns may have stricter sales policies than the state law.
- Massachusetts General Laws regarding tobacco sales to minors
- Massachusetts Consumer Protection Regulations (includes links to 940 CMR 21.00 and 22.00)
As a part of Massachusetts Consumer Protection Regulations, tobacco retailers are required to ask for identification of individuals who appear to be under the age of 27. To assist with this requirement, local boards of health conduct regular tobacco retailer education trainings to teach store managers and employees about local and state tobacco sales laws and how to check identification. If you are a store owner, contact your local board of health to inquire about in-person trainings.
Additional laws and regulations
- Attorney General’s regulations on electronic smoking devices – 940 CMR 21.00
- Hiring of Police and Firefighters: Persons who smoke are not eligible for appointment as a police officer or firefighter
- State Divestment of Tobacco
- Nicotine Yield Regulations – 105 CMR 660
- Report: Changes in Nicotine Yield, 1998-2004 (PDF) | (DOC)
Retailers who wish to sell tobacco products must obtain a state tobacco license. Licenses can be purchased through the Department of Revenue. The Department of Revenue also sets and monitors price minimums for tobacco products. All questions should be directed to (617) 887-5090.
Most communities also require separate local tobacco licenses, and many require licenses to sell nicotine delivery products. These are obtained from the local board of health or municipality. Contact your local board of health for more information.
Federal laws pertaining to smoking govern federal buildings, federal courthouses, military installations and airplanes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products regulates the manufacturing, marketing and distribution of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Federal law also governs federal excise taxes.
In July 1992, Congress enacted the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act, which included an amendment (Section 1926) aimed at reducing youth access to tobacco products. Named for its sponsor, Congressman Mike Synar of Oklahoma, the Synar Amendment requires states to enact and enforce laws prohibiting the sale or distribution of tobacco products to individuals under the age of 18, and to conduct random, unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with the law.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health is required to submit the Annual Synar Report to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). The Annual Synar Report describes the progress that Massachusetts has made in enforcing youth access laws and outlines future plans to reduce the tobacco industry’s influence on youth.
How tobacco laws are enforced
Compliance Checks — Tobacco Sales to Minors
Local boards of health conduct retailer inspections to assess compliance with local regulations that prohibit the sale of tobacco to minors.
Penalties for the sale of tobacco products to minors are assessed and levied by local boards of health. These include warnings, fines, and/or suspensions of local tobacco sales permits for repeat violations.
Separate from local enforcement, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts compliance checks on tobacco retailers. Municipalities can search for retailers who have undergone an FDA compliance check on the FDA’s website.
Tobacco retail store inspections
Local boards of health conduct retail store inspections to determine if tobacco sales permits and/or required signs are posted, and if stores illegally sell tobacco products in self-service displays or vending machines.
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue conducts inspections to confirm compliance with tobacco tax stamp laws and the minimum price of the sale of tobacco.