PHAI Litigation the Focus of Boston Globe Editorial

Today the Boston Globe’s Editorial Board published an editorial supporting the the Public Health Advocacy Institute’s efforts to stop automated lottery ticket sales to kids.

Earlier this month, PHAI filed a lawsuit against Star Markets and issued to consumer rights demand to Stop & Shop, two major regional grocery chains, on behalf of the father of a young teen who was able to purchase lottery tickets from vending machines in those stores with alarming ease.  The national membership advocacy organization, Stop Predatory Gambling, is also a plaintiff to the action.

The purpose of the litigation is to ensure that steps are taken to prevent prohibited sales of lottery tickets, including particularly addictive scratch tickets, to children by either requiring that the vending machines are disabled until age verification is performed or by removing the machines from locations where children are present.  It certainly does not help matters when candy displays and other vending machines are adjacent to the lottery vending machines, as we observed when recording purchases made by the plaintiff’s son.

Our goal is straightforward  – lottery vending machines ought to be treated in the same manner as vending machines for cigarettes, the only other age-restricted product sold through automated vending. Cigarette vending machines in Massachusetts can only be places in adults-only locations and must use a lock-out device that prevents the machine from being used for a purchase until age-verification has taken place and the machine is temporarily unlocked by remote control.

There are important public health and policy reasons why products like tobacco and gambling products are not to be sold to youth.  Automated vending tends to undermine the age-restriction and what we learned about cigarettes vending in the 1990s applies to lottery vending in 2015.