Board of Health Appears Before Town Council On New Tobacco Regulations

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

The Board of Health was the first board to officially appear before the new Town Council at its meeting Tuesday night, and presented its draft regulations to restrict the sale of tobacco products in Winthrop.

A public hearing on the draft regulations will be held Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in the EB Newton School on Pauline Street.

Some of the new regulations propose to raise the tobacco buying age from 18 to 21, limit the sales of flavored tobacco products to adult-only stores, ban the sale of blunt wraps, ban sales within in 500-yards of a school (current establishments would be grandfathered) and ban the sales of tobacco in a health institution.

Board of Health member Susan Maguire said the e-cigarettes are a big concern, especially with high school students. The new regulations would also apply to them. Currently, there are 101 communities that restrict e-cigs.

Precinct 3 Councillor Nick LoConte, the former Board of Health chairman, said he had a problem with the impact on businesses and taking people’s rights away.

“CVS no longer sells tobacco,” Maguire said. Brown’s Pharmacy on Winthrop Street does sell tobacco. “160 communities in the state ban the sale of tobacco in a pharmacy.”

“I have some real concerns about raising the tobacco age to 21 as much as I think tobacco smoking is dangerous and unhealthy. Taking adults rights away is a real concern for me, and I’m wondering what the Board of Health has done for education,” LoConte said.

“We can’t compete with the tobacco industry,” said Board of Health Vice Chair Bill Schmidt. “There are efforts in the schools.”

LoConte said Brown’s Pharmacy would be hit particularly hard, not just to sell to those over 21 but also to ban tobacco all together.

“We are inviting all retailers (19) in to discuss the regulations. They can attend the public hearing or send in testimony,” Schmidt said. “We’d like to understand the impact on business.”

Councillor Phil Boncore also had concerns about the regulations, including the way cigars are packaged and priced.

“You shouldn’t raise the age to 21. Someone is old enough to vote, old enough to go in the service but they can’t smoke? I don’t condoned anyone to start smoking. That person has their right to their own enjoyment,” Boncore said. “That’s what the constitution gives us. I don’t think this is something Winthrop should be doing. I think this will scare businesses away from Winthrop when we’re trying to get a new center business district to come in and attract businesses.”

As for Brown’s Pharmacy, “that’s taking business away from a business that’s been here for 100 years,” Boncore said. He also noted the smoking rates in the state and how they are lower in Winthrop, yet  lung cancer is high and he sees Logan Airport as a possible source.

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