Adams May Snuff Out Public Smoking by March 1

By Dan GigliottiiBerkshires Correspondent
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The Board of Health is expected to decide on smoking regulations next week.

ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health is nearly ready to implement a series of restrictive smoking regulations after three years of deliberation.

The board must first extinguish its uncertainty about the sale of single cigars.

A final vote to institute bans on smoking in public areas and the sale of nicotine and tobacco products in health care institutions is expected to be made by board members on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at 4 p.m. at Town Hall. The new law will also treat e-cigarettes as any other smoking product.

If enacted, these regulations will prohibit the sale of tobacco products in health care institutions, like pharmacies and drug stores, including a Rite Aid on Columbus Street and Big Y Pharmacy on Myrtle Street.

Boston and Needham banned the sales of cigarettes from pharmacies in 2009; CVS pharmacies this week announced it would stop selling cigarettes in all its locations.

There will also be a ban on smoking in town-owned parks, playgrounds, athletic fields and beaches and in bus and taxi waiting areas.

Chairwoman Patricia Clairmont said the board's responsibility to educate and inform people in their decision making are why smoking regulations are important to enact, citing a relatively high number of adult smokers and smoking during pregnancy in Adams.

"I think whatever we can do to lower that and the more we can do to re-educate people, especially our young people, before they really get into the habit, I really believe this is the goal of the board. We're trying to steer our young people in a different direction, a healthy direction," Clairmont said.

During its public hearing on Jan. 29, Berkshire Community College professor of psychology Wayne Klug gave board members statistical information regarding the town's habits, showing its adult rates of smoking are 40 percent higher than state averages.

The one issue Clairmont believes has yet to reach a consensus is a ban on the sale of single cigars for $2.50 or less. Based on the new regulations, these items must be sold in packages of at least four cigars.

This drew comment from local convenience store owners who said it will be a detriment to business.

"A lot of adults who come in my store, they'll buy a single cigar. They don't want to have to buy a four pack or a $2.50 cigar and then walk around the woods, while they're either scouting or doing whatever on the weekends," Jim Rose, owner of Seven Eleven on Columbia Street, said.

"It's taking away their option of how much they want to spend on what they want to spend," Rose said, comparing cigar sales to beer.

Hoosac Valley High School Principal Vinnie Reagan submitted a letter in support of the tobacco regulations, endorsing the town's willingness to help young people make good decisions regarding tobacco use with its regulations.

The executive director of the New England Service Station and Auto Repair Association sent a letter in opposition of the regulations, stating its adverse impact on legal tobacco sales, saying 70 percent of machine-made cigars are sold in single sticks and there is a considerable adult market for them.

The punishment for violation of the regulations is consistent with state law, according to Clairmont, which imposes fines of $100 for first-time offense and up to $300 for three offenses, along with a 30-day suspension.

If the board votes to pass the new smoking regulations, it must await approval from the state's attorney general before taking effect. Clairmont estimates these regulations could be effective as early as March 1.

"If we clear up the issue of single-item cigars, if we can agree on that. ... I'm suspecting we will take a vote at that meeting," Clairmont said, referring to vote to passing the smoking regulations.

Prior talks of tobacco restrictions were halted because of the resignation of former board member Richard Frost, since filled by Allen Mendel. The Board of Health decided to begin discussing smoking regulations again in August.

The Adams Board of Health has been planning on instituting some legislation against smoking-related products since 2011. In February 2013, state health officials presented the BOH with options on potential tobacco regulations to implement in Adams, like increased signage or the ban of certain products.

Tags: board of health,   smoking regulations,   

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