As of June 1, anyone purchasing tobacco and related products in Winthrop will have to be 21 years of age.
Tuesday night, after months of work, the Board of Health voted to implement new regulations for the sale of tobacco.
Besides raising the purchasing age to 21, other regulations include not renewing tobacco sale permits if there have been three illegal sales to minors; tobacco permits could not be issued to any business within 500 feet of a school; no permits allowed within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer; and restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products to adult only retail tobacco stores.
The regulations would also ban the sale of blunt wraps (often used by marijuana users); and no sales of tobacco in health-care institutions, including pharmacies. There are also pricing changes for cigar sales.
Bonny Carroll, director of the Six City Tobacco Initiative Collaborative, has been working on draft regulations with the Board of Health.
Right now, Winthrop has 19 tobacco permit holders in town, one being a pharmacy. It is expected that Brown’s Pharmacy will lose its permit too sell tobacco. CVS Pharmacy made a corporate decision a few years ago not to sell tobacco. Each permit costs the shop owner $200. Carroll said “vape stores” are popping up everywhere, and a permit would be required to open one.
Health board member Susan Maguire also discussed introducing some smoking cessation support in town.
“I think it (raising the age to 21) will help a lot of people in Winthrop live longer and healthier lives. I think the board noticed the latest evidence that has come out in the last month from the National Academy of Sciences warn of youths’ use of e-cigarettes and the dangers of vaping,” said Ken Farbstein of the NIATxFoundation.
“I think it’s a very good step in the right direction,” said Carroll. She too helped with the regulations and conducts two compliance checks with each permit-holder twice a year. She also investigates tobacco violations in stores and restaurants.
Board of Health Vice President Bill Schmidt said it was a long process and Maguire said they did their due diligence. During this time the board was also short one member, since former chairman Nick LoConte stepped down to become a member of the Town Council.
“I’m happy people had the opportunity to voice their opinions,” Schmidt said. “There will be further education.”
He noted that letters of support all came from the American Lung Association of Massachusetts, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.
Some of those people included lobbyists such as Dennis Lane from Coalition of Responsible Retailers who opposed raising the age to 21 and Nicholas John of the think tank R-Street Institute.
“We encourage e-cigs as a much safer alternative,” John said at a previous meeting, adding that yes, nicotine, is an addictive substance no matter how you smoke it.
Currently, there are 101 communities that restrict e-cigs and over 60 communities in Massachusetts have raised the purchasing age to 21.
“I don’t think banning products solves the issue,” Lane said. “It’s widely available on the Internet and from social sources. I think education and enforcement is the way to go.”
Carroll said that her next step is to work with the retailer in town to adjust to the new regulations.