ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health has made some edits to its tobacco policy and agreed to pump the brakes on setting a tobacco cap until this spring.
Chairman Peter Hoyt had a draft policy in hand Wednesday but felt the working document needed more time and more input from other town departments.
"We have a lot of edits here and a lot of input, and I know there has been anticipation to put this on our March meeting but I don't know if we are at that point," Hoyt said. "I think the earliest would be our April meeting because I would really like to hone this down."
Last year, the Board of Health agreed it wanted to go forward with limiting the number of establishments that sell tobacco but had yet to figure out the specifics.
Currently there are 10 tobacco sellers in Adams. One of these is adult only.
The board tossed around possibly capping the amount of regular tobacco permits to 11 and maybe allowing a separate limit of four for adult permits. There was also some discussion about tying the cap to population and decreasing the amount of permits through attrition.
Board member Laura Grandchamp agreed and felt a March approval felt "rushed" and Hoyt said he would like to get a more finalized draft out to affected town departments and town council before entering a public hearing.
Code Enforcement Officer Mark Blaisdell put forth a Department of Public Health template with some of his own edits for the board members to go through but before they dove into the lengthy review, Selectman James Bush once again spoke out in opposition.
"We had 22 mom and pop stores in town in the town of Adams, 14 on the Route 8 corridor," Bush said. "They are all long gone or they are homes now so that business district is gone. Our business district is what you see out this window now so putting a cap on that we are really discouraging a small business from opening up."
Board member David Rhoads cut Bush short and said although the board members understand this concern, they do not want to rehash the same argument as last month. Hoyt added that this is one reason he wants to delay approval to give other town departments an opportunity to weigh in.
Bush added that instead of implementing regulations on businesses, the board should work through the schools and educate students on the dangers of smoking.
"I watched my mom die at 58 from smoking ... it is not pretty and I quit immediately ... but I didn't care before," he said. "These kids don't care ... instead of spending time stopping stores from selling cigarettes ... we need to get some education in the schools and talk to these kids."
Hoyt said they have already reached out to the schools and provided them with educational materials.
"I agree and we pushed for that last year and the year before," Hoyt said. "There is more than one way to skin a cat and this is just another avenue we want to use."
The board then went through the document section by section and mostly tightened up language, eliminated redundancies, and tailored the policy to Adams.
The board struck a ban on selling blunt wraps, typically used for smoking marijuana, from the policy after Blaisdell suggested that it could attract people to Adams.
"Marijuana is legal now and we are going to have establishments here in town and if you want to be the first on something let’s not prohibit the sale of blunt wraps," he said. "If other communities are not ahead of this but we are we are going to have people coming to Adams."
Rhoads had an initial concern about flavors but Blaisdell said although some may be flavored the town has a ban on that. Only regular blunt wraps could be sold in town.
One point of disagreement was removing references and citations from the policy. Hoyt and Grandchamp felt as though the supplementary information overburdened the document.
"I don’t think it is necessary to have all of these footnotes and references," Hoyt said. "People know smoking is bad and I don’t think your general retailer is looking up all of these articles ... this is not a college research paper."
Rhoads disagreed and wanted the references to back up the regulations and strengthen them.
"Vendors have to read this and have to say that they read it so we are asking them to know why we are doing this," he said. "This section is very important it shows that there are legit public health reasons for capping licenses."
Blaisdell agreed with Hoyt and Grandchamp and said he did not think kids, the policy’s target audience, are going to read all of the health information and the information dump would only make life more difficult for retailers.
Rhoads conceded and said although he still wanted to include the information he would not vote against the policy.
The board also agreed to open up service training to multiple agencies instead of just Tri-Town Health as Rhoads suggested. He felt the town's vendors are already familiar with Tri-Town and was impressed by their record keeping.
Blaisdell said many chain stores offer their own training to employees and there are other agencies store clerks can go through.
Hoyt said as long as it is an approved course he had no issue.
"Why restrict an approved course?" he said.
The board did discuss fines and Rhoads first thought that only the store owner should be fined if an infraction occurred — even if the store clerk sells to someone underage.
"I think that is a bit harsh," he said.
Hoyt said he was hesitant to let a store clerk get away without a fine. He said if there are no consequences clerks may be more inclined to sell to friends who are under age.
Hoyt said he would compile the edits in a master document that the Board could vote on next month. The meeting after that would hold a public hearing.
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