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Massachusetts Town May Ban All Tobacco Sales

Oct 30, 2014

A central Massachusetts town is considering a ban on all tobacco sales, according to a proposed regulation posted on the town’s web site on Monday.

The Westminster Board of Health seeks to prohibit stores from selling any tobacco products in this town 50 miles northwest of Boston, Law360 reports. The ban would include cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and blunt wraps.

Mark Gottlieb, executive director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute, said if the measure passes, Westminster would be “the first community in the nation to ban all tobacco sales.” Gottlieb said the institute expects to see other towns move “aggressively” to severely restrict tobacco sales, Law360 reports.

The draft regulation cites a variety of health concerns associated with tobacco products. The regulation notes how highly addictive nicotine is and warns of nicotine’s effects on brain development during adolescence, according to Law360. The regulation expresses particular concern about youth smoking and cites data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey showing that teenagers who smoke e-cigarettes are twice as likely to turn to conventional cigarettes. The proposal cites concerns from the American Heart Association that using e-cigarettes can lead ex-smokers to smoke again.

More than 80 Massachusetts towns ban tobacco sales in pharmacies and more than 30 towns have raised the age of tobacco sales to 21. State laws already ban selling tobacco to minors, but according to the proposal, minors’ tobacco use is still a major public health problem.

Vince Willmore, of the advocacy group Tobacco Free Kids, told Law360 that his group welcomes appropriate measures that “can further reduce tobacco use, which is still the number one preventable cause of death in our country.”

If the regulation is passed, violations would be punishable by a $300 fine and the suspension or revocation of health permits. The Westminster Board of Health will hold a public hearing on the proposed regulation on November 12, Law360 reports.

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