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FDA Reboots Tobacco Regulation with Harm Reduction

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

On Friday, July 28, 2017, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb unveiled a revamped approach to tobacco product regulation in an announcement that surprised tobacco companies, investors, and the public health community in equal measure.  The goal, as articulated by Gottlieb, will be to regulate products so as to encourage migrating existing consumers from the most lethal combustible tobacco products (i.e., cigarettes) to non-combustible products lower on the continuum of risk. This approach is known as “harm reduction.”  The keystone will be to promulgate product standards so that cigarettes deliver insufficient nicotine to users to create or sustain addiction so that current nonsmokers never start and current smokers either quit or switch to non-combustible tobacco product that present a lower health risk.

This idea, while somewhat radical, is not new.  It had been a topic of discussion at the American Medical Association in the mid-1990s. Congress gave the FDA regulatory authority over tobacco in 2009 with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 (“Tobacco Control Act”).  It prohibited the agency from banning cigarettes or from banning nicotine.  The law does, however, explicitly allow for the potential reduction of nicotine in cigarettes to any level above zero.  The Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law produced a white paper on this approach in 2009 and proposed further research on the policy, but enthusiasm at the agency and the Executive Branch was lacking. Northeastern University Distinguished Professor, Richard A. Daynard, characterized non-addictive cigarettes in the New York Times as one of two important strategies that could end the cycle of addiction, disease, and death from tobacco products.

Research to date, including a $50 million research project funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, have produced preliminary results supporting the notion that very low nicotine cigarettes will lead to fewer cigarettes smoked and reduced toxic exposure to consumers.  So long as the nicotine levels are very low, compensatory smoking behaviors such as inhaling more deeply and smoking greater numbers of cigarettes do not seem to generally occur.  Some of these preliminary results were presented at Northeastern University School of Law in 2014 by a Principal Investigator of the grant, Dorothy Hatsukami, at PHAI’s conference, “Accelerating Tobacco Endgame Strategies in the United States.”

Another important tool that the FDA can use is to issue rules pertaining to the use of flavors in tobacco products.  While the Tobacco Control Act banned the use of characterizing flavors other than mint or menthol in cigarettes, concerns around the role of flavors in tobacco initiation have intensified in recent years.  “Little cigars,” which closely resemble cigarettes, are available in a range of child-friendly flavors.  E-cigarettes, likewise, have been criticized for offering fruit and candy flavors that would seem to appeal to children.

The question of exempting menthol flavored cigarettes from the flavor ban has been extremely controversial.  The Tobacco Control Act, it was thought, would not have garnered the votes needed to pass Congress were a menthol cigarette ban included.  Rather, the law specified that an expert committee must be convened by FDA to study the issue and issue a report on the health impact of menthol as a characterizing flavor in tobacco products.

The resulting reports concluded that although menthol itself did not contribute to the toxicity of tobacco products, it tended to anesthetize the lungs in a way that facilitates smoking initiation by youth and frustrated cessation efforts.  Further, mentholated cigarettes have been historically marketed in a way that targets African Americans.  Almost 90% of African American smokers prefer menthol cigarettes, which is the most robust sector of the cigarette industry in the United States.  The company that produces the menthol market leader, Newport, was recently acquired by R.J. Reynolds which, in turn, was acquired by British American Tobacco this year. Reportedly, much of the value sought in these acquisitions derived from the Newport brand and the value of menthol cigarettes.

To date, the FDA has taken no action on mentholated tobacco products.  Chicago and San Francisco have passed ordinances restricting sales of menthol tobacco products.  San Francisco’s ordinance, which passed in July of 2017, is a total ban on all flavored tobacco product sales, including menthol.

The FDA announced that it will soon release three Preliminary Notice of Proposed Rulemakings seeking public and stakeholder comment on: 1) pros and cons of nicotine reduction strategies; 2) role of characterizing flavors, including menthol, in youth initiation and as a means to attract smokers to non-combustible tobacco products with less risk; and 3) potential health risks and use patterns of premium cigars.

Non-combustible products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems including e-cigarettes and emerging “heat-not-burn” products would be likely alternatives to non-addictive cigarettes as would nicotine replacement therapies such as the gum and patch.  While this harm reduction approach has many supporters in the public health community, it would have the likely effect of perpetuating the commercialized recreational use of nicotine long into the future.

Since the FDA began regulating tobacco products in 2009, almost every substantive regulatory effort has been met with litigation. This includes 2 lawsuits challenging a host of the law’s provisions; challenges to the legal legitimacy of the report FDA issued about menthol; a successful First Amendment challenge to regulations for graphic cigarette warning labels; and a dozen or so lawsuits challenging the agency’s regulation of e-cigarettes and cigars.

This litany of litigation has, to this point, slowed or partially derailed the agency’s regulatory agenda and has drawn the criticism of many in the public health community. The FDA’s announcement marks a new and more aggressive regulatory vision for tobacco. Many questions remain. Is the scientific evidence base sufficient to justify this new approach?  What will be the effect of inevitable legal challenges from manufacturers and smokers? What are the health impact of non-combustible tobacco products to users and non-users?  How did the political environment in the Executive Branch change to allow for this new strategy to emerge and will it last?

With so many questions remaining and so many potential rules to enact, the timeline for the FDA to implement its new regulatory approach is uncertain.  Based on past experience, it would be reasonable to expect that it may be a decade or more until cigarettes are non-addictive.  Until then, there will be an effort by the tobacco industry to attract millions of consumers to new, less dangerous, but still addictive tobacco products.

Author –  Public Health Advocacy Institute
Reprinted from:



Snowflakes Are Found in 84 Degree Richmond: The 2017 Altria Group Annual Shareholders Meeting

Monday, June 12th, 2017

By Edward L. Sweda, Jr., PHAI Senior Attorney

As I approached the Greater Richmond Convention Center on the partly cloudy morning of Thursday, May 18, 2017, thoughts of sub-freezing temperatures and snowstorms never entered my mind.  But, before the morning gave way to the afternoon, I realized that I had just seen dozens of snowflakes.

As he opened the meeting just before 9:00 A.M., Altria Group Chairman, President and CEO Martin J. Barrington declared that the company had experienced “another outstanding year” in 2016.  That was followed by a “solid start” in the first quarter of 2017.  He listed four priorities for the company:

  1. Tobacco Harm Reduction;
  2. Marketing;
  3. Supply Chain Responsibility; and
  4. Employees.

The company’s strategies are:

  1. Maximize income from core tobacco businesses over the long term;
  2. Grow new streams with innovative tobacco products (including MarkTen XL, the “fastest growing e-vapor brand” in the last quarter of 2016); and
  3. Manage diverse income streams and a strong balance sheet to deliver consistent financial performance (citing Altria’s ownership of over 10% of AB InBev and its Ste. Michelle Wine Estates ).

I was able to begin the Question and Answer session of the meeting with the following question:

“You and other executives of Altria Group have often referred to tobacco litigation as an issue that is ‘manageable’ and, therefore, should not be troubling to investors.

Yet, just within the past two months, the following developments have occurred:

  • On April 6th, the Florida Supreme Court in the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Marotta case ruled that federal law does not preempt Engle Progeny plaintiffs from bringing strict liability and negligence claims against tobacco companies.
  • On April 12th in the Boatright v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. case, a Florida Appeals Court affirmed a jury award of $35 million against Philip Morris USA, Inc., and reversed the reduction of the award by the trial judge because the smoker was also at fault for his illnesses, ruling that Florida’s comparative fault law does not apply to intentional torts.  This increases the company’s exposure to liability.
  • On April 6th in the Sommers v. Philip Morris case, a Florida state jury awarded $1 million to the widow of a lawyer and real estate developer after finding Philip Morris responsible for his coronary artery diseases and fatal lung cancer.

My question is: do you understand why there are shareholders who believe that the tobacco litigation problem is no longer simply ‘manageable’?

Mr. Barrington’s response was, while acknowledging these and other recent legal setbacks for Altria, to emphasize that in the larger picture, tobacco lawsuits are still “manageable” in the view of Altria’s management.  He admitted that “litigation presents a risk and we devote substantial resources to it.”  Mr. Barrington also claimed that the litigation has been “well managed” and that the slope of the numbers of cases “has been coming down.”  Regarding Engle, he said that it presents a “complex set of individual cases” and that Altria is “working our way through it.”  He complained that the “terms on which those cases are being tried are not particularly fair to the defendants.”  He concluded by stating that tobacco litigation is “a complex matter but it is a finite matter.”

Reality Check’s Jonathan Chaffe asked about the growing number of localities across the country that have adopted Age 21 policies – making it illegal to sell or give cigarettes and other tobacco products to people under age 21.  Mr. Barrington responded by saying that he prefers to minimum age to be 18 rather than 21.  He also raised the potential problem of communities that have passed Age 21 laws being surrounded by other communities that hadn’t, thus encouraging young smokers to travel to a place where the minimum age is still 18.  Finally, he opined that it would be better to have this issue dealt with by Congress, rather than by states or localities.

A 15-year-old student from Elmira, New York asked Mr. Barrington what steps Altria is taking “to ensure that specific populations with higher smoking rates based on ethnicity, income, education and mental health are not being profiled by Altria’s advertising?”  Altria’s current top executive gave an answer that any number of his predecessors have given over the years.  He claimed that the company markets cigarettes “only to adults.”

In response to a question about how Altria plans to respond to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s November 2016 policy for smoke-free public housing, Mr. Barrington said that Altria “hasn’t weighed in” on the issue but that, as a general rule, homeowners should decide whether to allow smoking in people’s homes.

A shareholder resolution, sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia (see http://osfphila.org/ ), called on the company to “voluntarily commit itself that, by August 15, 2017, it will not allow any images of its logo or products be placed anywhere outside any store, in store windows or anywhere else inside any store selling its tobacco products and will stop incentives to any retailer for such placements.”  The proposal noted that “people of low socioeconomic status have higher rates of cigarette smoking than the general population” and that a city of Philadelphia analysis of licenses found that lower income zip codes “had two-thirds more tobacco retailers per capita than higher-income zip codes and three-quarters more within 1000 feet of a school.”

The resolution received a 2.6% YES vote.

Before, during and after the meeting, at least thirty teenagers demonstrated outside the convention center, carrying teal and black balloons to emphasize how young people who begin using a deadly and addictive product become replacement smokers for Altria’s customers who die from smoking-caused diseases.  The teenagers, who were accompanied be several adults, were representatives of Reality Check New York ) and No Limits Nebraska.

After the 50-minute meeting had ended, I emerged from the meeting room to learn that the approximately 85 attendees were blocked from exiting from the same doors through which they had entered an hour or so earlier.  Instead, everyone had to walk down a long corridor – about the length of a city block – to get to the exit which led to the parking garage.

Why did Altria management take this action, which had never been done before in my experience of having attended annual shareholder meetings for more than 20 years?

If it hadn’t done so, shareholders would have seen dozens of teenagers wearing T-shirts with the message “People Over Profit.”  They would have seen the balloons that represent both tobacco’s death toll and replacement toll.  They would have heard the chants that describe the lies used by tobacco companies to help maximize profit levels at the expense of the health and the lives of the public.

In May 2016, the Urban Dictionary defined “snowflake” as “an overly sensitive person, incapable of dealing with any opinions that differ from their own.”  The key message of this year’s Altria Group shareholders meeting was not that 2016 was an “outstanding” year for the company.  It was that Altria’s management is afraid of opinions that differ from their own, especially when those opinions are espoused by young people who have the courage to speak truth to power – up close and personal.



Dec. Issue of Atlantic: PHAI’s Daynard and Friedman Comment in Powerful Gambling Addiction Article

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

In a powerful long form article by by John Rosengren covers the impact of gambling addiction and the predatory casino industry.  The article, entitled “How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts,” details the ways that electronic gambling machines, like slot machines, along with outrageously predatory tactics used by casinos to bait problem gamblers, combine to destroy the lives of gamblers and their families.

The well-written and deeply researched piece quotes Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of Law and PHAI President, Richard A. Daynard along with PHAI Senior Staff Attorney Lissy Friedman .

Gambling is a public health issue that causes or exacerbates psychiatric disorders, alcoholism, and substance abuse.  Addicted gamblers are at dramatically increased risk for suicide and may steal to continue gambling.  Casinos do not deliver on the economic promises they make and often contribute to economic problems at the community level. PHAI seeks to use legal and policy measures to reduce the public health impact of predatory gambling.



PHAI’s Gottlieb Comments on FDA Regulations’ Effect on Vaping Industry on All Things Considered

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

On August 8, 2016, new regulations by the FDA went into effect that have a profound impact on a major segment of the electronic cigarette industry:  vape shops.  The shops that mix flavors for vaping products are now considered to be manufacturers and subject to the same requirements as manufactures owned by the companies that make Marlboros, Camels, and Newports.

The new rules will require each and every flavor variation of electronic cigarettes to be approved by the FDA as a new tobacco product.  The cost associated with each application is estimated by the agency to average over $300,000.  Vape shops had typically created many dozens of varieties of “e-juice” every month and, under the new rules, the revenues from these flavor varieties would account for only a small fraction of the cost for submitting new tobacco product applications. This has led some vape shops to close their doors.

WGBH’s Isaiah Thompson reported on these developments  for NPR’s All Things Considered (with an expanded written version). PHAI’s executive director, Mark Gottlieb, is quoted in the piece.

Vape Shop



PHAI’s Gottlieb Discusses Fantasy Sports as Gambling on “Broadside” TV Segment

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Mark Gottlieb, the executive director of PHAI, discussed the legality of paid daily fantasy sports games in Massachusetts on New England Cable News channel’s public affairs show, “Broadside” with Sue O’Connell.  The segment aired on November 3, 2015.
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Boston Globe Published Gottlieb Op-Ed on Legality of Daily Fantasy Sports in Massachusetts

Friday, October 30th, 2015

The Boston Globe has published on opinion piece by PHAI’s executive director, Mark A. Gottlieb, which summarizes the organization’s legal research concluding that paid Daily Fantasy Sports games are illegal under Massachusetts law. The piece, entitled, “Fantasy Sports Gambling is Illegal Under State Law,” explains the law and several reasons why it is important to enforce it.

Gottlieb argues that Daily Fantasy Sports games operated by DraftKings and FanDuel are a consumer rip-off as currently operated with almost all of the winnings going to full-time professionals.  He goes on to criticize Internet gambling as posing a threat to current and potential compulsive gamblers, and that it is inconsistent with the limited casino gambling authorized by the state.

Massachusetts is among several states considering regulatory approaches to these games.  Six states have banned them entirely.



PHAI Finds Online Fantasy Sports Gambling Operators in “Clear” Violation of Massachusetts Law

Monday, October 26th, 2015

A review by a prominent public interest law organization based in Boston revealed that online sports gambling operators like DraftKings are in “clear” violation of Massachusetts law.

The findings were included in an October 16th legal memo to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office that was prepared by the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University.

PHAI, led by Northeastern University Distinguished Professor of Law Richard Daynard, is nationally-recognized for its effective legal advocacy combating the epidemics caused by tobacco and obesity.

In contrast, Attorney General Healey, has publicly said the law regarding online fantasy sports gambling is “unclear.”

“The lack of any action to stop the illegal business of online fantasy sports gambling and look the other way or wait until some future legislative action allows it sends the wrong message: that it is acceptable to engage in an illegal business now and, if it generates enough revenue, wait until lobbyists and corporate interests change its legal status,” said Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of PHAI.

PHAI conducted its review after being contacted by Stop Predatory Gambling, a national government reform group against state-sponsored gambling operations.

The findings of PHAI’s review include:

“The internet gambling operations run by DraftKings and FanDuel are predatory, deceptive, illegal and coming at the expense of everyday citizens,” said Les Bernal, National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling.

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Stop & Shop Responds to PHAI’s Demands to Prevent Sales of Scratch Tickets to Kids

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

In 2014 and 2015, the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) conducted testing to determine whether kids could purchase lottery tickets from the vending machines located in a number of area supermarkets.  At markets in Cambridge, Somerville, and Arlington, Massachusetts, a teenage tester was easily able to purchase lottery tickets in every attempt.

Massachusetts law expressly prohibits the sale of lottery tickets to “any person under age eighteen.” Yet the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling reports that over two-thirds of teenage boys (aged 14-17) have gambled in the past year, and over half of teenage girls have done so. About a third of these children gambled by playing lottery games.

somerville stop and shop 8-1-15

Stop & Shop lottery vending machine with scanner in Somerville, MA

On March 10, 2015, PHAI sent Stop & Shop a legal demand under Massachusetts’ consumer protection law, on behalf of the father of the teenage purchaser, Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley, and on behalf of the national non-profit Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation, seeking steps to prevent children from using the lottery ticket vending machines in the company’s stores. According to the demand letter, selling the tickets to minors is an unfair and deceptive sales practice prohibited by law.

The action drew media attention and led to an editorial in the Boston Globe urging that the problem be addressed.  Representatives from Stop & Shop responded by working with the Massachusetts Lottery Commission to activate drivers’ license scanners in the lottery ticket machines, which operate to confirm that a lottery ticket purchaser is at least 18 years old before the machine will vend a ticket.  Stop & Shop informed PHAI last week that all of its lottery ticket vending machines would have these protections in place by the end of July, 2015.

PHAI staff spot checked Stop & Shop machines in 3 counties and found that its machines will, in fact, not operate without first scanning an adult driver’s license.

Cambridge City Councilor Kelley said he was pleased to see some progress made. “It’s a real problem,” Kelley said. “As a father and as a city councilor, I was truly shocked at how easy it was for a kid to buy tickets from these machines.”

Mark Gottlieb, executive director of PHAI, noted that “While Stop & Shop’s efforts to quickly address the problem are laudable, the vast majority of lottery ticket vending machines in the state don’t have driver’s license scanners. This includes many places like bowling alleys and convenience stores that are frequented by kids.” Gottlieb added that “we will continue to work to prevent sales of scratch tickets to kids through vending machines as a public health policy measure.”



Under An Hour: My Time at the 2015 Altria Group, Inc. Annual Shareholders Meeting

Monday, June 1st, 2015

By Edward L. Sweda, Jr.

There are 8,760 hours in any given year (excluding leap years). The management of Altria Group, Inc. used just under one of those 8,760 hours to conduct its 2015 Annual Shareholders’ Meeting at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Virginia on the morning of May 20th. The meeting began precisely at 9:00 A.M. and was adjourned at 9:57 A.M.

In his business presentation, Altria Group, Inc. Chairman, CEO and President Martin J. Barrington reported that “2014

Altria’s Barrington

was a very strong year for Altria and its shareholders,” that “Marlboro achieved record retail share of 43.8%, larger than the next ten brands combined” and Altria “delivered shareholder return of over 34%, far outpacing the S&P 500 and the S&P Food, Beverage and Tobacco Index.” Addressing an important concern in Washington, Mr. Barrington stated that Altria believes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “has an unprecedented opportunity to advance public health goals by recognizing that some types of tobacco products may have significantly lower risk compared to cigarettes.”

During the Question and Answer session, I asked the following question:

 “According to Altria Group’s most recent form 10-K filed with the SEC ‘an unfavorable outcome or settlement of pending tobacco-related or other litigation could encourage the commencement of additional litigation. Damages claimed in some tobacco-related or other litigation are significant and, in certain cases, range in the billions of dollars.’ Just last month, the Boston Globe reported on an upsurge of tobacco product liability lawsuits that have been filed in Massachusetts, spurred on by a recent ruling from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court that is favorable to plaintiffs in those cases. Moreover, Altria’s Form 10-K also states on page 67 that ‘after exhausting all appeals in those cases resulting in adverse verdicts associated with tobacco-related litigation since October of 2004, PMUSA has paid in the aggregate judgments (and related costs and fees) totaling approximately $144 million as of December 31, 2014.’ So my question is ‘Why shouldn’t Altria’s shareholders and investors expect the company to continue to pay judgments in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in the years to come?’”

Mr. Barrington answered that litigation “presents risks to this company and to others. But it is also true that we have considerable experience in managing that risk. And I think if you look at the track record for Altria, and fill it more so over the years, you see that it has been extremely well managed. The approach we take is to defend the cases strongly and vigorously and you overwhelmingly see that from time to time, a matter may present itself in which we have a unique opportunity to resolve the matter. And if we think it’s in shareholders’ best interest to do that, we will go ahead to do that, but I think actually if you look at the curve of tobacco litigation over the last, I don’t know, 7 to 10 years, you will see that it is not up at all. In fact, it’s sharply down. And I think that’s because we have managed it and we have addressed the challenges that we have had in litigation that you are pointing out.”

Father Michael Crosby of the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Milwaukee addressed the issue of forced labor in tobacco fields. After Mr. Barrington had stated that Altria opposes illegal cigarette smuggling, Fr. Crosby commented that Altria “does not seem to be that much against illegal trafficking in human beings who are coming into our fields to produce and harvest the tobacco. You called the trafficking of tobacco products criminal behavior, for me it’s criminal behavior when this company is aware of the illegality of having so many undocumented workers, some people say up to 70% of all farm workers in the United States are undocumented, that means this company is involved in illegal behavior maybe not directly but indirectly it knows it’s going on and doesn’t do anything, so there’s culpability. This is the elephant in the board room. This is the elephant in the shareholders meeting that our dividends are coming on the back of illegal activities.”

In response, Mr. Barrington stressed that “we oppose exploiting labor on the farm or elsewhere.” He added that, as opposed to doing nothing, the company “have put it in our supplier code of conduct. We tell the growers that they should not be using forced labor or exploitive labor in our work.”

Officials from the AFL-CIO’s Farm Labor Organizing Committee addressed concerns about child labor in tobacco fields as well as the effort to get substantive change in the conditions, wages and housing for tobacco farm workers.

Cathy Rowan, on behalf of Trinity Health as well as Catholic Health Initiatives , the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey, the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth and the Sisters of St. Francis, supported a resolution asking the Altria Board of Directors to “initiate efforts to develop materials informing tobacco users who live below the poverty line or have little formal education about the health consequences of smoking our products along with market-appropriate smoking cessation materials.” The proposal “speaks to the high prevalence of smoking among people living in poverty, people with disabilities and minority populations. Many of these are fellow citizens who are people who have the fewest resources, the least amount of social support and the least access to cessation services.” The company’s opposition to this resolution claims that the company “believes the wide variety of current communication programs sponsored by multiple parties addresses the objectives of this proposal.” This resolution was defeated.

Two other shareholder resolutions were presented. One, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, called on Altria Group, Inc. to prepare a report on the steps it has taken to reduce the risk of acute nicotine poisoning (or “Green Tobacco Sickness”) for farmworkers in the company’s supply chain for tobacco. The other resolution, sponsored by the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order in Milwaukee, requested the company’s Board of Directors to “create a policy that all its suppliers throughout its tobacco procurement supply chain verify (with independent monitoring) their commitment and compliance regarding non-employment, directly or indirectly, of laborers who have had to pay to cross the U.S. border to work or, once here, to work on U.S. farms.”   Just as at the Reynolds American Shareholders Meeting two weeks earlier , both of these resolutions were defeated.

 

 



PHAI Mentioned in Boston Globe Article About Efforts to Prevent Underage Lottery Vending

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

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Click for video of sale

In recent months, PHAI has worked with concerned parents and a national anti-predatory gambling group to address youth access to instant lottery tickets through unattended vending machines. Fears around easy access to scratch tickets by kids grew when we found that a 14-year-old was able to easily purchase tickets from lottery vending machines in supermarkets in Arlington, Cambridge, and Somerville, Massachusetts.  Each attempt was made in the late afternoon without any effort to conceal the sale.  In each instance, the teenager was able to approach the machine and make a slow and deliberate purchase while customers and store personnel were nearby.

PHAI filed a lawsuit on behalf of the father of the teenager as well as Stop Predatory Gambling against one of the supermarket chains, Star Markets, and has initiated legal action against Stop & Shop. In the story published today in the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Lottery Commission announced that some vending machines will now use a scanning technology feature to verify the age of purchasers through their drivers’ license or state-issued identification.  The executive director of the Commission, Beth Bresnahan, indicates that, “following some incidents of underage play that recently transpired . . . the Lottery is activating this feature across all of the approximately 500 PAT machines currently in the field to fully protect the integrity of ticket sales at retail locations.” “PATs,” or “Player Activated Terminals,” represent less than 30% of all lottery vending machines in Massachusetts.

The “incidents” Ms. Bresnahan referred to are, presumably, those that were brought to the attention of the Commission through PHAI’s litigation and coverage of the lawsuit by the Boston Globe as well as its strong editorial calling for effective age-restriction enforcement by the Commission.

It remains to be seen whether these new measures will be effective, particularly because they affect only a fraction of the vending machines that are in places frequented by youth.




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