Easthampton raises minimum age to buy tobacco to 21

  • In this file photo from July, members of the Easthampton Board of Health Trisha Rogers and Jackie Duda, health agent, discuss tobacco regulations at a public hearing. The board this week raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21. In this file photo from July, members of the Easthampton Board of Health Trisha Rogers and Jackie Duda, health agent, discuss tobacco regulations at a public hearing. The board this week raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21.

@kate_ashworth
Published: 10/4/2017 4:28:02 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Stricter tobacco regulations passed by the Board of Health on Tuesday will raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco in the city from 18 to 21 next year.

The updated regulations also include limiting the sale of flavored tobacco products to adult-only retail stores and capping the number of tobacco product sales permits in the city to the present number of 19.

The new regulations will be in effect Jan. 1, 2018. Similar measures have been adopted by some 150 municipalities in Massachusetts, including Amherst and Northampton.

“The board has worked very hard over the past three months to process all of the input from the public and to weigh the benefits of updating our existing regulation,” Health Agent Jackie Duda said in a press release. “But the bottom line here is public health protection, and protecting the health of youth contributes greatly to the long-term health of our community.”

Convenience stores such as Family Dollar and Pride, both on Union Street, will no longer be able to sell flavored tobacco products, with the exception of menthol, peppermint and wintergreen flavors. Flavored products such as e-cigarette and vapor pen liquid can only be sold at adult-only stores and smoking bars where the minimum age to enter is 21.

Single cigars must be sold at a minimum of $2.50, and packaged cigars of two or more must be priced at $5 or more.

Duda said that she received little opposition to the regulations. At the July public hearing, a state representative from the Tobacco 21 initiative, Lester Hartman, pushed for stricter regulations and raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21.

Ruth Ever from the Easthampton Healthy Youth Coalition spoke at the July hearing in favor of tightening tobacco restrictions. So did Dennis Lacourse, a tobacco enforcement officer for Franklin and Hampshire counties, who said he’s seen a significant reduction in sales to minors in communities that have adopted similar regulations.

Out of the 19 stores selling tobacco in Easthampton, Duda said three stores where in violation this year.

Local compliance checks conducted in June found two Easthampton stores in violation of tobacco regulations. The smoke shop Head Eaze on Union Street sold a pina colada flavored vaping liquid to someone younger than 18 and the Family Dollar on Union Street had a packaging violation.

In August, the federal Food and Drug Administration found the Old Colony Package Store on Main Street in violation for selling a package of Newport cigarettes to a minor, according to Duda.

It was the first violation for each store and a $100 fine was imposed, Duda said.

“Our intent here is to protect youth from long-term tobacco addiction and health problems associated with tobacco use,” Duda said in a statement.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.




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