Rotondo Wants Health Board to be Elected

By Sue Ellen Woodcock

Councillor George Rotondo has called for a change of the city charter to make the Board of Health to be an elected body instead of an appointed one.

Rotondo disagrees with the board’s decision to raise the age for buying tobacco from 18 to 21, something 137 communities in Massachusetts have done.

According to the Municipal Tobacco Control technical Assistance Program, so far 137 communities have raised the purchasing age to 21, including Boston, Chelsea, Malden, Melrose, Saugus and Somerville. The are 77 communities restricting flavored “other tobacco products,” including Boston, Chelsea, Lynnfield, Melrose, Saugus and Somerville. There are 134 communities with minimum pricing standards for cigars, including Boston, Chelsea, Lynnfield, Malden, Melrose, Saugus, Somerville and Winthrop. The area communities that restrict the number of tobacco sales permits include Chelsea, Saugus and Winthrop.

Rotondo argued that cigarettes and cigars can be purchased online.

“I think (the Board of Health) usurped the power of the city council in how commerce is done in our city,” he said at the council meeting last week. “They are not an elected body and they don’t answer to the electorate. They are creating an unfair playing field.”

Rotondo also took issue with the fact that the Board of Health met three times on the issue at 11 a.m. and noontime. Rotondo called for the board not to hold a meeting “during their lunch hour.”

“Hold the meeting after 6 p.m. so more people can be engaged,” Rotondo said.

Ward 6 Councillor Charles Patch attended the Board of Health meetings and said he was ignored when he proposed having a military ID card for troops under the age of 21, arguing that they can fight for their country but can’t buy a pack of cigarettes in Revere.

“I could sense the Board of Health was making their own decision very quickly,” said Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso. “I think they were just going through the motions. I think this is deserving of going to Committee as a Whole for review.”

Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky took issue with the opposition.

“Just because one goes to a meeting that a board makes a decision they didn’t like doesn’t mean you ask for a change in the charter because you don’t like the decision,” Novoselsky said.

As of July 1 anyone who purchases tobacco products in Revere will have to be 21 years old, something retailers aren’t happy with either.

Joe Prezio, of Joe’s Market on Squire Road, said the loss of revenue was not considered and stores in Revere will lose millions in sales not only from tobacco products but ancillary purchases.

“The businesses of Revere need a voice when things like this come before the board,” Prezio told the city council last week.

Rotondo also filed a motion, but later withdrew it, which would have called citywide ballot a binding referendum question reversing the decision of the Board of Health in regards raising the tobacco buying age to 21.

So as it stands the following following regulations also went with changing the buying age to 21.

• Requirement of quit smoking signs in stores.

• Adoption of minimum cigar package size and pricing.

• No permit renewal if there were three sales to minors.

• Place a cap on or reduce the number of permits.

• No new retailers within 500 feet of a school

• Ban the sale of blunt wraps.

• Ban non-residential roll your own machines.

• Ban tobacco and nicotine delivery products in educational institutions.

• Raise the fine structure to $300 for first offense and a seven-day suspension of permit for the second offense, and $300 and a 30 day suspension for the third offense.

The topic was sent to the Committee as a Whole for further discussion amongst the council.

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