ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health may consider placing a cap on tobacco establishments in town.
Board of Health member David Rhoads broached the subject at Wednesday's meeting of limiting the number of stores that can sell tobacco to help curb over-saturation and access for teens.
"I don't have a proposal but I would ask that we consider this and imagine what information we would like to have," he said. "I want to do this but I want to do it right."
Rhoads said he thought currently the town had around seven establishments that sold cigarettes and other tobacco products with more potentially in the pipeline.
He said the state Department of Public Health had no clear recommendation for capping tobacco establishments in a community but reiterated that the younger people start smoking the more likely they are to continue it into adulthood.
He said this aligned with his thoughts and his main goal as a Board of Health member would be to limit access to teenagers.
Rhoads presented a few possibilities that included setting a straight cap on tobacco sales or implementing a cap with attrition to decrease the number already in town.
"Do we cap it so we don't get any more or do we think about reducing this number as businesses turnover?" he asked.
He said another option would be to always allow one more establishment than what the town has but have a thorough review process that considers surroundings. He said they could limit establishments near schools or other like establishments.
Town Administrator Jay Green, who attended the meeting, was the former chairman of the Board of Health in Pittsfield and noted the city did the same thing a few years ago and it was not the easiest process.
He said the town needs to find a balance between limiting access to youth while allowing adult uses.
"I lived this in your position and I think my guidance is as follows. If you think this is anchored in prohibiting the exposure to youth that is a valid concept," he said. "But it needs to be balanced with adult use."
He said a policy not considered fully could limit potential business or development that may be connected to tobacco or smoking.
If the board does decide to start this process, it will need to be vocal, Green said. In Pittsfield, it took almost two years to go into effect. He said an individual purchased a blighted property looking to invest in the community and turn it into a convenience store.
Green said all in all limiting tobacco sales detracts from economic development and although business are encouraged to diversify sales many often lean on selling cigarettes.
"Really at the end of the day, it is an economic development prohibiter," he said. "It is an old vice business that is easy to fall back into."
Chairman Peter Hoyt was cautious and noted the town just implemented Tobacco 21. He said it may be worth waiting to see how this has impacted youth smoking before taking any additional action.
"I am against smoking don’t get me wrong but are we just going to throw two things at this problem as opposed to seeing if one solution is already there," he said. "That is just a question I hate to hurt the economics in town."
Rhoads handed out density maps that broke down where and how many establishments there were in town in relation to population for the board to review.
"We will do some research on this and bring our thoughts to the next meeting," Hoyt said.
In other business, the board discussed signage and Rhoads said he would be interested in purchasing a Board of Health sign to display at health fairs and other like events.
"I want to get our face out there because this is public health we are dealing with," he said. "We can’t just sit here and make decisions. I want to promote this and get our logo out."
Hoyt added that it would be beneficial to have some sort of magnetic signage for the Code Enforcement Officer to Place on their car while out in the field.
Green added that the town is considering repurposing a vehicle to be used just for code enforcement and inspection services.
"This would not be an expansion of the fleet but a repurposing of the fleet," he said. "We are not there yet but we have spoken about it."
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