Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’
PHAI Submits Comments to Support Smoke-Free Low Income Housing to MA Dept of Housing and Community Development
Thursday, January 5th, 2017
PHAI, on behalf of the Tobacco Free Living Community of Practice (a statewide coalition organized through the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health), submitted recommendations to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (“MDHCD”) for its 2017 Qualified Allocation Draft Plan and Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
MDHCD implements the federal Law Income Housing Tax Credit and helps encourage the development of private low-income housing. Its 2017 Qualified Allocation Draft Plan, which includes a competitive scoring system for applicants seeking to build low-income housing and claim tax credits, provides points to applicants that promote clean indoor air.
Chris Banthin, PHAI’s Director of its Tobacco Control Resource Center, suggests in Comments submitted in December 23, 2016, that applicants should be required to include smoke-free policies for all indoor common areas and living units or, alternatively, that points be awarded to applicants that agree to implement such policies.
The following organizations signed on to the comments to lend their support:
• American Lung Association, Northeast
• Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter
• Beacon Communities LLC
• Boston Alliance for Community Health
• Boston Children’s Hospital
• Boston Public Health Commission
• Charlestown Coalition
• Codman Square Health Center
• Codman Square Neighborhood Council
• Dorchester Bay EDC
• East Boston Neighborhood Health Center
• Fenway CDC
• Harbor Health Services, Inc.
• Health Resources in Action
• Healthy Weight Initiative, HSPH
• Massachusetts Environmental Health Association
• MGH Center for Community Health Improvement
• New England Regional Council of the National Association of the Housing and Redevelopment Officials
• Peabody Properties, Inc.
• Public Health Advocacy Institute, Inc.
• Vaughan W. Rees, PhD, Director, Center for Global Tobacco Control, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
• Resilient Sisterhood Project
• South Boston Substance Abuse Prevention Collaborative
• South End Community Health Center
• Tobacco Free Mass
Friday, November 13th, 2015
Mark Gottlieb, the executive director of PHAI, discussed the impact of the Cease and Desist orders issued by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to shut down daily Fantasy Sports sites FanDuel and DraftKings in that state as well as related developments in Massachusetts. This segment of New England Cable News’ “Broadside with Sue O’Connell” aired on November 12, 2015.
(Please excuse any commercial content with video). If video fails to play, click this link.
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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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.
Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
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.
Friday, May 1st, 2015
On April 23, 2015, the Public Health Advocacy Institute submitted the following written comments concerning proposed regulations for electronic cigarettes issued by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey:
April 23, 2015
Amber Villa, Assistant Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
Office of the Attorney General
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
Re: Massachusetts Attorney General Proposed Regulations of E-Cigarettes Retail Sales
Dear Assistant Attorney General Villa:
On behalf of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law (PHAI), I am writing in response to Attorney General Maura Healey’s
request for comment on the proposed regulation of e-cigarettes sales. We at PHAI are dedicated to protecting and improving public health through law and legal policy. We enthusiastically support the proposed regulations to reduce youth access to e-cigarettes.
The three-fold increase in e-cigarette use among middle and high school age youth from 2011 to 2013 demands a response.  Now a quarter of all high school age children and eight percent of middle school age children use e-cigarettes and do so regularly.  We appear to be watching tobacco become ‘cool again’ among youth, and this time it is e-cigarettes.
This alarming trend sadly is not surprising. E-cigarette advertisements appear everywhere, promoting brands like Blu, which suddenly have become as recognizable as Marlboro and Camel. Additionally, candy and other exotic flavored e-cigarettes are contributing to the growing popularity among youth. Tobacco industry documents discovered through litigation tell us that manufacturers used such flavors in the past to target sales at children.  Today, e-cigarette manufacturers may be doing the same thing with flavors like Cotton Candy, Sweet Tart and even Unicorn Puke.  Unicorn Puke is a mash-up of candy flavors.
PHAI applauds Attorney General Healey’s effort to stop the sale of e-cigarettes to children. Although some municipalities already established similar youth access
protections, many have not.  The thousands of retailers in these municipalities can legally sell to children of any age. Unattended vending machines and self-services displays, which lead to youth acquisition of tobacco products, are allowed. Even online retailers do not need to verify a buyer’s age, if the product is delivered anywhere in these cities and towns. Attorney General Healey’s proposed regulation would stop these retail practices.
The leadership shown by Attorney General Healey also challenges others to join her and develop a more comprehensive public health response to e-cigarette use. Our state legislators, state agencies, and public health partners working at the municipal level must also respond in a coordinated and sustained manner. The e-cigarette industry appears to be acting just like tobacco manufacturers did decades ago. Partly, this similarity can be explained by the fact that many cigarette manufacturers also manufacture e-cigarettes.  Another, perhaps more important reason we appear to be reliving the tobacco industry’s past is because we are letting it happen through our own inaction.
Consider just some of the differences in regulatory oversight. E-cigarette advertisements are on television and cable. Other tobacco products are not because it would be illegal. The 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which prohibits the use of cartoons in tobacco advertising and tobacco brand sponsorships at youth oriented events, is not applied to e-cigarettes.  Candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes are prohibited,  but exotic flavored e-cigarettes are heavily promoted and sold in Massachusetts. We tax tobacco products to dissuade use and help pay for tobacco prevention programs.  There is no tax on e-cigarettes. We passed smoke-free workplace laws to protect against secondhand smoke exposure and to de-normalize smoking.  Except for a few municipalities,  no such equivalent protection exists for e-cigarette emissions.
Attorney General Healey takes a strong first step in establishing at least some proportionality in e-cigarette regulation compared to other tobacco products. Although initial research suggests that e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, scientific research also tells us that e-cigarettes are not safe. Just last week, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden stated that e-cigarettes are not safe, in part, because “research had found that nicotine harms the developing brain.”  In addition to a lifelong addiction to nicotine, exposing the young, developing brain to nicotine acts as a ‘gateway’ to other drug addictions. 
Additionally, e-cigarettes emit other constituents that should raise concerns for the public’s health. Monitoring of e-cigarette emissions has found varying levels of toxins and carcinogens in different brands and product types.  The range is broad. Some brands emit trace amounts of carcinogens, while other e-cigarette products, like refillable tank systems for example, can produce levels of formaldehyde comparable to combusted tobacco products.  Currently, there is no regulation of liquid or gel solution in e-cigarettes or how they are vaporized. Put simply, e-cigarettes are not a cessation product designed to end the harm caused by tobacco use or nicotine addiction.
PHAI would recommend one technical change in the proposed regulation. The regulations should not set “18 years of age” as the minimum sales age. Instead, the proposed regulations should use the minimum sales age set by the Legislature. Currently, that age is 18, but proposed state legislation would raise it to 21.  Several municipalities have already taken this step. 
Christopher Banthin, Esq.,
1 Intentions to Smoke Cigarettes among Never-Smoking U.S. Middle and High School Electronic Cigarette Users, National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011-13, Nicotine & Tobacco Research, April 2015.
3 United States v. Phillip Morris, Inc., RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co., et al., 449 F.Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C. 2006).
4 Sabrina Tavernise, Use of E-Cigarettes Rises Sharply Among Teenagers Report Says, New York Times, April 17, 2015.
5 Donald Wilson, Municipal Tobacco Control Technical Assistance Program, Mass Municipal Ass’n (March 2015).
6 Big Tobacco Companies are Putting Big Warning Labels on Their E-Cigarettes, Washington Post, Sept. 29, 2014.
7 http://www.naag.org/naag/about_naag/naag-center-for-tobacco-and-public-health.php, visited on April 19, 2015.
8 21 U.S.C. § 387g.
9 Mass Gen Law. Ch 64C.
10 Mass. Gen Law. Ch. 270, Sec. 22.
11 Donald Wilson, Municipal Tobacco Control Technical Assistance Program, Mass Municipal Ass’n (March 2015).
12 Tavernise, supra, n. 4.
13 Eric Kandel, et al., A Molecular Basis for Nicotine as a Gateway Drug, New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 371, Pp. 932-41 (2014).
14 US Food and Drug Administration. Final Report on FDA Analyses, May 4, 2009, available at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ScienceResearch/UCM173250.pdf
15 Matt Richtel, Some E-Cigarettes Deliver a Puff of Carcinogens, New York Times, May 3, 2014.
16 House Bill 2021, An Act Further Regulating the Sale of Tobacco Products to Teenagers, 189 General Court 2015.
17 Wilson, supra, n. 5.
Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
The Public Health Advocacy Institute has filed an amicus curiae brief in an appeal pending before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The Plaintiff/Appellants are seeking to reverse a decision of the attorney general and get a question certified for inclusion on the 2014 ballot to repeal a law legalizing casino gambling in Massachusetts. The case is Steven P. Abdow et al., v. Attorney General, et al., No. SJC-11641.
Legalized casino gambling causes devastating effects on the public’s health, including not only the gambler but also their families, neighbors, communities and others with whom they interact. Massachusetts voters should not be denied the opportunity to be heard directly on the question of whether to invite a predatory and toxic industry to do business in the Commonwealth.
The harm caused by the tobacco industry’s products has been the archetype of a commercial threat to public health, and in considering the introduction of gambling industry casinos into Massachusetts, much can be learned from the object lesson of considering the tobacco industry as a disease vector. The predatory gambling industry shares much in common with the tobacco industry.
Some examples of the similarities are:
- Casinos employ electronic gambling machines that are designed to addict their customers in a way that is similar to how the tobacco industry formulates its cigarettes to be addictive by manipulating their nicotine levels and other ingredients.
- Mirroring the tobacco industry’s strategy of creating scientific doubt where none truly exists, the casino industry has co-opted and corrupted scholarship on the effects of gambling through the use of front groups that funnel money to beholden scientists who are able to sanitize its origin.
- Borrowing another tobacco industry technique of shaping the debate around its products, by creating a misleading lexicon and using euphemisms, the casino industry has tried to influence debate, deflect criticism and mislead the public about its role as a disease vector.
- By employing personal and corporate responsibility rhetoric honed by the tobacco industry, the casino industry hopes to gain and maintain social acceptability and stave off litigation, regulation and citizen-driven activism.
Both the tobacco and casino industries profit from preying upon society’s most vulnerable members, acting as disease vectors which adversely affect the physical, emotional and social health of the individual users and the communities where use of the products is prevalent.
The brief declares that the voters of the Commonwealth should be allowed to act on their own behalf in expressing an opinion of this type of predatory behavior. The power of the citizen ballot initiative is the ultimate in personal responsibility, agency and self-determination. Therefore, PHAI asks the court to compel the attorney general to certify the Plaintiffs’/Appellants’ petition and allow the repeal measure to be included on the 2014 ballot.
The full brief can be downloaded here.
Historic $79 Million Cigarette Settlement Signifies Beginning of Wave of Tobacco Cases in Massachusetts
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
If you someone in your family was recently harmed by smoking, please see our cigarette lawsuit information page.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark Gottlieb – 617-373-2026
Massachusetts is now the most favorable state in the country to bring a cigarette smoking personal injury case. A Massachusetts Tobacco Case Information Hotline has been established for victims of smoking and their families to learn more at: 888-991-8728 or here at www.MATobaccoCase.com.
Today’s announcement in Lorillard’s 8K SEC filing of a $79 million settlement for compensatory damages and interest and conclusion of Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Co. marks the end of the first tobacco trial in Massachusetts since 1990. Much has changed since then.
In 1994, a torrent of extraordinarily damaging documents from the cigarette companies’ internal files laying out how the companies hid what they knew about the dangers of their products from customers and government became available to the public.
- Whistleblowers came forward offering their testimony of what they saw.
- Congress held embarrassing hearings where cigarette company CEOs blatantly lied under oath on national television.
- States sued cigarette manufacturers for billions of dollars lost treating sick smokers on Medicaid.
After years of constant litigation and public disclosure of the industry’s bad behavior, in 2006, a federal judge issued a scathing opinion detailing in 1,500 pages of factual findings the industry’s improper activities and finding them liable for racketeering.
These developments have transformed the tobacco litigation landscape. In Florida, under special rules subsequent to the dismissal of a class action, 71 out of 104 individual tobacco trials held over the past 4 years have resulted in verdicts for the plaintiff. But the most important state for tobacco litigation is not Florida. It’s Massachusetts.
Massachusetts, benefitting from the combination of two key rulings by the Supreme Judicial Court, is the best state in the nation for litigation against cigarette manufacturers.
In Haglund v. Philip Morris (847 N.E. 2d 315 (2006)), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously rejected the tobacco industry’s blame-the-smoker-for-smoking defense. This is the only court opinion in the country that has squarely held that, as a matter of law – except in extremely rare and unlikely cases – the so-called “personal choice defense” is unavailable to the tobacco companies. The Court wrote that, “If Philip Morris chooses to market an inherently dangerous product, it is at the very least perverse to allow the company to escape liability by showing only that its product was used for its ordinary purpose.” The affirmative defense that the smoker’s behavior was unreasonable or should have known the risks is not available in Massachusetts.
In this past June’s Supreme Judicial Court ruling in the case announced as settled today, Evans v. Lorillard (465 Mass. 411 (2013)), the Court held that Lorillard breached the implied warranty of merchantability and that cigarettes that were addictive and caused disease were not fit to be sold in Massachusetts. This rendered virtually every cigarette sold here as defective. The Court reasoned, “We decline to place addictive chemicals outside the reach of product liability and give them special protection akin to immunity based solely on the strength of their addictive qualities. . . . Rather, we conclude . . . that a reasonable jury could find from the evidence presented that a low tar, low nicotine cigarette constituted a safer reasonable alternative to Lorillard’s Newport cigarettes.”
By “low tar, low nicotine cigarette,” the Court is not referring to brands that were deceptively marketed as “light cigarettes.” Rather it means cigarettes that do not addict and expose consumers to an array of carcinogens. While the cigarette companies could have sold such products, virtually no cigarettes sold in Massachusetts utilized such a reasonable alternative to the deadly and addictive products that have been so lucrative for Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, Brown and Williamson, American Tobacco Co., or Liggett for so long.
As the book closes on Evans v. Lorillard, a new era of tobacco litigation based in Massachusetts is about to begin. Individuals and family members of those who have suffered from a cigarette-caused illness such as lung cancer, COPD, Buerger’s disease or bladder cancer, to name a few, should contact the Massachusetts Tobacco Case Information Hotline at 888-991-8728 to learn more about their legal rights. They can also contact the Hotline via the web here.
Mark Gottlieb, Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, at Northeastern University School of Law noted that, “The time for so many tobacco industry victims in Massachusetts to come forward to hold the industry responsible is finally here.”
Edward Sweda, Senior Attorney for the Institute stated, “The state of the law in Massachusetts, as set forth by the Supreme Judicial Court, is that any cigarette that addicts or maintains the nicotine addiction of consumers is defective. This is great news for smokers who seek legal redress from the companies that put these defective products on the market. Conversely, it is disastrous news for the cigarette companies.”