Board of Health Upholds Fine, Suspension for Sale of Tobacco to Minors

The Revere Board of Health held its regular monthly meeting last Thursday, June 23, in the City Council Chambers at Revere City Hall.

Chairperson Dr. Drew Bunker and members Dr. Craig Constanza and Nezha Louaddi were in attendance, as well Lauren Buck, the Director of Public Health; Michael Wells, the Health Agent/Director of Inspectional Services (ISD); and Paula Sepulveda the board’s Administrative Assistant.

Buck presented the monthly communicable disease report. She told the board that the city’s influenza cases are trending down. She also said that a previously-diagnosed Monkey Pox case in the city was “revoked” upon further review of the patient’s symptoms by the State Board of Public Health.

Buck said there is one current case of tuberculosis in the city and that the patient is receiving treatment and doing well.

As for COVID, Buck said there have been 182 COVID-related deaths in the city from the start of the pandemic, an increase of one since last month. She also said the 7-day case average came in at 13.1 for the past month, which is a “huge decrease from last month, which we think is a down-swing from the blip of a surge in the previous two months.”

Buck said there also have been increases in rates of COVID-19 vaccinations for all age groups. She reminded residents to go to Revere.org for the list of the city’s weekly vaccine clinics during the summer months.

Wells then presented a new monthly report to the board which covers the various types of inspections performed by ISD, including pool inspections, exterior sanitation, food inspections, and certificates of fitness for occupancy for rental units. He listed the number of inspections in each category and citations for violations that were issued during the month.

The board then heard a request for an appeal of the $1000 fine and suspension of the license of a local tobacco store, ABC, at 170 Revere Street, that was imposed on April 11, 2022, by the Six City Tobacco Initiative and subsequently upheld by the Board of Health.

An attorney representing ABC made the argument that the three-day suspension is not part of the state’s regulatory scheme.

“We’re fine paying the fine,” the attorney said, but argued that the suspension is not obligatory.

“This is the first time my client has been here in 49 years,” he said. “This suspension for the sale of all tobacco products shuts them down for three days. I submit to you this is not what the statute and the CMR (Code of Mass. Regulations) contemplate. In addition, he will be ‘on probation’ for three years.”

The board then heard from D.J .Wilson from the Mass. Municipal Assoc. (who was in attendance for another matter), who suggested to the board that a suspension, which can be up to 30 days, is required under the law.

However, the attorney for ABC responded that a three-day suspension is not mandated under the CMR.

“I suggest that shutting down my client’s business is ‘over the top’ and more than necessary to send a message to them. It’s unduly harsh,” he added, noting that unlike a typical convenience store, for which tobacco sales might constitute 10 percent of its income, his client’s entire operation will be shut down for three days.

Bunker however, replied, “As a physician, I know from my practice that when you introduce tobacco to a child that young (the Six City Initiative had conducted a ‘controlled-buy’ operation with 16 year-old youths), it can lead to long-term addiction.

“It is harsh, I understand that, but at the same time, we voted as a board to do a three-day suspension.,” said Bunker. “We talked about a 30-day suspension, but settled on a three-day suspension similar to what other cities are doing. I think we’re following the law.”

The attorney then asked that the suspension be imposed not on consecutive days, but over a period of time.

“By shutting them down, you’re taking away 100 percent of this business’s operation,” the attorney noted.

After it was clarified by Buck that the board did not specify that the penalty be for three consecutive days when the board voted to make it a three-day suspension for a first offense, Bunker suggested that ABC be given 60 days to absorb the three-day suspension.

The board members agreed and voted to allow ABC to have 60 days to comply with the three-day loss of license.

The board then heard a presentation from Wilson and Lisa Stevens-Goodnight of the Mass. Municipal Association and Bonny Carroll of the Six-City Tobacco Initiative (of which Revere is a member) to update the regulations restricting the sale of tobacco and vape products in order to bring the state law, the CMRs, and the local regulations into conformity with each other.

Wilson and Stevens-Goodnight went through the minutiae of the disparities in the regulations at the state, local, and regulatory levels and left it to the board to make a decision regarding their proposed new regulations.

Bunker said the matter will be referred to the City Solicitor for his opinion.

The board will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations at its next meeting in July.

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