Board Votes to Make 21 Legal Smoking Age

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Starting July 1,  purchasers of tobacco products in Revere are going to have to be 21 years of age or older.

On Tuesday morning, the Board of Health voted in 12 new amendments regarding the sale tobacco products. One regulation for banning the sales of flavored tobacco products did not pass.

Over the past couple of months the Board held a public hearing twice, both heavily attended by owners of convenience stores in Revere and those looking for a ban.

An amendment to restrict flavored tobacco products sales in other than adult only retail tobacco stores failed when voted on. Currently, only  77 of 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth have this amendment.

So people will be able to buy flavored products but they will have to be 21 years of age. The amendments that did pass by board members Kim Hanton, Dr. Eric Weil, and John L. Benecchi go into effect July 1 and include:

  • The requirement of a cessation quit sign.
• Adopt minimum cigar package size/pricing.
  • No permit renewal if three sales to under age people.
• Cap and/or reduce number of tobacco permits in Revere.
• No new retailers are allowed within 500 feet of a school.
• Raise minimum legal sales age of tobacco and nicotine delivery products to 21.
• Ban the sale blunt wraps.
• Ban non-residential roll your own machines.
• Ban tobacco and nicotine delivery products in educational institutions.
• Raise fining structure to $300 for first offense, $300 and 7 day suspension of permit for second offense, $300.00 and 30 day suspension for third offense.
• Raise tolling period from 24 months to 36 months
• Change language from “may suspend” to “shall suspend”

“This is an important and controversial issue,” said Weil. “It’s our job to decide this around tobacco sales and health.”

Before any votes took place, Councillors George Rotondo, Arthur Guinasso, Bob Haas and Charles Patch all spoke on the issue of flavored tobacco. They agreed smoking was bad, but they also agreed it was an individual choice. Since many of the councillors have served in the military, they saw how some veterans returned home addicted to cigarettes.

“If you prohibit something it makes it more glamorous,” Guinasso said of flavored products. “I speak for the majority of the city council, they’d be against prohibition.”

“It’s not going to solve the problem,” Patch said before the vote was taken to prohibit flavored tobacco product sales. “You’re going to hurt their income (store owners). Vinny’s Market and Joe’s Market don’t need restrictions. People will just go to another town. We’ve got more serious problems like opiates and marijuana.

In deliberations before the vote was taken, Attorney Lawrence Simione, who represented the stores owners, said they are not against the age of 21 to purchase tobacco.

Former Mayor Dan Rizzo said he was an advocate for the business community. He said regulations are one thing, but not when it hurts business.

“I see no valid reason to shift this from one business to another,” Rizzo said.

D.J. Wilson of the Massachusetts Control Board said 144 cities and town now have the age 21 limit and 143 communities ban the sale of blunt wrappers used to often smoke marijuana and other smoking materials.

“The Tobacco 21 program is growing momentum across the country,” Wilson said.

It was noted that Revere has a 27 percent lung cancer rate, one of the higher ones in the state. It is considered that flavored tobacco products are a gateway for smoking.

Before the vote Joseph Prezio of Joe’s Market said losing the flavored tobacco products would mean an annual loss of $180,000. He noted that there are 60 convenience stores in Revere.

Shaheedol Islam, of the 7-11 on Broadway said the products are legal and he might consider taking his business elsewhere if the flavored products were banned.

“You’re taking my income and sending it to a smoke shop. You’re just shifting the burden,” Islam said.

Weil said the board will reassess the amendments after 12 months. Store owners will receive information and training from the state tobacco control program.

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