Dalton BOH Continues to Tackle Tobacco Ordinance Update
DALTON, Mass. — The Board of Health is closer to updating its tobacco ordinance.
The panel fine-tuned its recommendations on Monday and will make a final decision next month. No local policy has been voted on yet.
Proposed changes include bans on flavored rolling papers and other products not restricted by the law, smoking bars, and new tobacco permits within 500 feet of schools.
There are also added regulations on the price point of single package cigars and a one-day suspension for a first offense tobacco sale to a minor.
The state stipulates that a suspension is required for an underage tobacco sale but gives a range and local boards of health are encouraged to be specific on suspensions.
The board agreed to move forward with updating its tobacco ordinance in April after being approached by Tri-Town Health Department Director James Wilusz. The health department for Lee, Lenox, and Stockbridge has been administering a tobacco awareness program since 1994.
Last month, a public hearing on the topic generated no participation from residents or storeowners. Notices were mailed to vendors and were posted in the local newspaper as well as the town's website.
The board decided to leave out to two proposed changes: a mandated tobacco retailer certification and a cap on the number of tobacco permits in the town.
The retailer certification is provided through the Tri-Town Health Department and costs $25 per person, which concerned board members.
Wilusz reported that there is free, less thorough training through the MassHealth Officers Association that can be done online.
"Most of the other boards of health required, many years ago, a mandated training because the fines were just out of control and it's it was more of a prevention program rather than a reactionary program," he explained.
Wilusz said the town could provide retailers with information on both training options and let them decide which to take without having a mandate.
Reportedly Dalton has maintained a steady amount of tobacco retailers throughout the years and capping the number of permits is not urgent at this point in time.
"Now I can tell you that I've been working this tobacco program for about 26 years. Dalton has been part of the tobacco program forever. I don't ever remember Dalton having a significant increase of stores opening up," Wilusz said.
"It's always been sort of that kind of level where you're at now so capping may or may not be a thing that you want to talk about now, but to reserve it for the future."
It was noted that the board will have the power to adjust that part of the ordinance down the road if needed.
Pittsfield has also been working on its ordinance with similar recommendations after Wilusz came to its Health Board in May to give an update on tobacco control, warning the panel that products can slip through the state's regulations without specific guidelines.
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