MMS Backs Restricting Tobacco Sales at Healthcare Institutions

WALTHAM — Saying that it has “steadfastly held that the health professions have a special obligation to promote the public health whenever possible,” The Mass. Medical Society (MMS) recently offered testimony before the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, voicing strong support for House Bill 1966, “An Act Restricting the Sale of Tobacco Products at Health Care Institutions.”
The measure would ban the sale of tobacco products by healthcare institutions and bar licensed health professionals from working in a professional capacity in locations where tobacco products are sold.
In its testimony, the MMS said it believes that “the sale of tobacco by healthcare institutions or by retail establishments that operate or have a healthcare institution within it should be banned,” and that “licensed healthcare professionals should not be permitted by their very presence to legitimize the sale of tobacco products.”
MMS recognized that such a bill “would not end the sale of tobacco products,” but said that “it would send an important health message to our patients and be another step in savings lives and in reducing illness and the cost of healthcare in the Commonwealth.”
Since 2008, MMS has had a policy that will support government action to prevent the sale of tobacco in any healthcare facility licensed by the Commonwealth or any site where a healthcare provider licensed under any section of Chapter 112 of the Massachusetts General Laws practices his or her profession.
“We can remember when smoking and the sale of tobacco products in hospitals was the norm,” the MMS continued in its testimony. “Today, our hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and physicians’ offices, and their grounds, are smoke-free. Unfortunately, there is still work to be done because tobacco products continue to be sold by pharmacies or by retailers that also house pharmacies or other healthcare institutions.”
The MMS noted that tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the U.S. today. With an estimated more than 400,000 deaths annually, smoking kills more Americans than auto accidents, AIDS, alcohol and illegal drugs, and murders and suicides combined. About 24 Massachusetts citizens die prematurely every day as a result of tobacco use.