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Shelburne updates, tightens tobacco sales law

SHELBURNE — Tobacco products “have come a long way, baby,” since the days when Virginia Slim cigarettes were marketed to appeal to women.

Today, there are flavored cigars that come in fruit flavors like peach, grape and pineapple with matching primary color packaging.

Besides Camel cigarettes, smokeless-tobacco users can chew on Camel Sticks, which look like toothpicks but dissolve in the mouth, or flavored Camel Orbs, which look like breath mints and come in cinnamon and mint flavors.

These products are attractive to underage users, and so the town Board of Health has recently approved new regulations tightening restrictions on the sale of “non-cigarette” tobacco products and “nicotine delivery products,” such as e-cigarettes.

An e-cigarette is a battery-operated electronic inhaler that vaporizes a nicotine solution and resembles the act of smoking.

“I didn’t realize there were so many products out there,” said Shelburne’s health board Chairwoman Deborah Coutinho. “There are so many things out there. And more things are coming out all the time.”

The Franklin-Hampshire Substance Tobacco Partnership has been working with local towns to regulate sales on tobacco products that can attract under-18 users. Buckland has already adopted such restrictions, as has Montague. Other communities in the two counties may follow.

For the first time in history, the percentage of underage teens using non-cigarette tobacco and nicotine products has surpassed the percentage that smoke cigarettes, according to Shelburne’s new tobacco sales regulations.

The town regulation notes that youth use of all (non-cigarette) tobacco products rose from 13.3 percent in 2003 to 17.6 percent in 2009 — when it was higher than the rate of cigarette use (which was 16 percent) for the first time in history.

The regulation also cites a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the percentage of Massachusetts high school students who reported smoking cigars within the past 30 days of the survey rose from about 12 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2009.

Most of the new regulations go into effect on April 1, with new rules concerning cigar sales going into effect on April 4.

The sales restriction goes on to say that nicotine levels are generally much higher in cigars than in cigarettes, and that commercial roll-your-own machines that are sold in retail stores enable retailers to sell pouch tobacco without the high excise tax imposed on commercial cigarettes. While the high excise tax discourages youth from starting to smoke, those less expensive roll-your-own cigarettes could promote tobacco use.

The regulation says an estimated 90 percent of “pipe” tobacco is actually being used in roll-your-own cigarettes.

∎ The new rules say no retailer can sell single cigars that cost less than at least $2.50. It says the cheaper cigars must be sold in their original package of at least four cigars.

∎ The sale of “blunt wraps” is prohibited in town. Blunt wraps are hollow tubes made from tobacco and designed to be filled with loose tobacco or other fillers.

∎ Free distribution of tobacco product samples or coupons for tobacco or nicotine-delivery products is not allowed.

∎ No out-of-package cigarette sales is allowed. This means no sales of single cigarettes or of packages with less than 20 cigarettes.

∎ Sale of tobacco and nicotine products is not allowed in schools or other educational institutions.

∎ Retail violators of the new law could be fined $100 for the first violation. If a second violation occurs within 36 months of the first, the retailer could face a fine of $200 and a seven-day suspension of their tobacco sales permit.

∎ A third violation within 36 months could result in a $300 fine and a 30-day permit suspension.

The town currently has nine tobacco permits in use for retailers, but the health board has capped the town’s number of tobacco sales permits to 11, in case of future applications.

Besides the tobacco sales changes, Coutinho says the board has also barred tobacco use from within 20 feet of public bus stops, municipal buildings and from athletic playing fields.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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