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Adams Looks to Ban Blunt Wraps, E-Cigs, Hookah Bars

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
07:15PM / Wednesday, February 06, 2013
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Joan Rubel went to Adams businesses and purchased the various 'new' tobacco products that are now sold in town.

ADAMS, Mass. — Hookah bars and the sale of blunt wraps and electronic cigarettes could soon be banned.

On Wednesday, Sarah McColgan, tobacco control director for the state health officers association, presented an array of regulations for town officials to craft on tobacco and tobacco-related products.

The Board of Health is now going to decide which regulations it would like to pursue and work with state organizations to implement them.

The options span from requiring tobacco dealers to post signage to outright bans on certain products. According to Northern Berkshire Tobacco-Free Community Partnership Project Coordinator Joan Rubel, the goal is to limit accessibility to tobacco products to reduce exposure to children.

"You are trying control your environment," Rubel said, calling the move a step toward eliminating smoking-related diseases altogether.

Rubel presented an array of newer smoking products, which she says are marketed toward children. From blunt wraps - which are often used for marijuana instead of tobacco - to electronic cigarettes, to cigars costing less than $2.50, Rubel said they were all purchased from town businesses and could all be banned.

"These are all flavored in ways that are attractive to kids," Rubel said. "At this point in Adams, all of the new tobacco products are being sold."

Some products do not require identification to purchase, Rubel said, and small, flavored cigars bypass state cigarette taxes to be inexpensive.

McColgan added that while hookah bars or other "smoking bars" are not currently in town, bans on those establishments would be a "proactive" move. She also said owners of commercial cigarette-rolling machines recently have been opening shops and bypassing state taxes by rolling the tobacco that way.

Other than sales, the law could also ban the use of electronic cigarettes, which expel a water vapor and not smoke, from any building that has workplace laws.

Across the state municipalities have been implementing bans and the Massachusetts Municipal Association is working with towns to craft legislation.

"There is nothing in here that leaves the Adams Board of Health wide open for a lawsuit," McColgan said of the draft regulations she passed out.

For items that the town does not want to outright ban, there is also permitting laws, which could limit the number of stores allowed to sell the products — similar to the way alcohol sale permits are administered.

Of the multiple options health officials could include, Rubel advocated for them to at least ban tobacco from pharmacies. Getting the products out of pharmacies will "break the mental connection" in people's minds between health institutions and tobacco, she said.

"I hope you take a close look at banning the sale of tobacco in pharmacies," Rubel told the Board of Health.

The bylaws would not require town meeting approval but would need at least one public hearing before being implemented. The Board of Health has been looking at tighter regulations for more than two years.

In other business, the Code Enforcement Officer Scott Koczela said the families living in the Dug Out Motel will be out by March 1. The motel has gone into receivership and a vacate order was placed on it to stop people from living there long term.

By Friday, there will be only two families left: one has an apartment lined up for March 1 and the other has not been in communication with officials and police will be forced to remove them on March 1 if they are not out.

"Most of the families have gone to North Adams to either shelters of apartments," Koczela said.

The original vacate order expired but because most of the residents were working with officials, Koczela allowed them to stay longer while they sought alternative housing, he said.


Tags: cigarettes,   e-cigarettes,   hookahs,   rolling papers,   smoking-related items,   

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