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Pittsfield Board of Health OKs Updated Tobacco Ordinance Draft

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With the Board of Health's support on several proposed tobacco ordinance updates, the city now wants to hear from the public.

On Wednesday, the panel approved a slate of changes that extend the document from 16 pages to 18 pages. These include a clarified definition for blunt wraps, a raised minimum price requirement for cigars, and violations that incorporate state law.

This has been an almost six-month effort after Tri-Town Health Department Director James Wilusz came to the board in May to give an update on tobacco control.

Pittsfield's tobacco ordinance was last updated in 2019 before Gov. Charlie Baker signed an Act Modernizing Tobacco Control, which imposed new restrictions on the sale of nicotine vaping, flavored vaping, and tobacco products.

Wilusz warned the panel that such products can slip through the state's regulations without specific guidelines.

Blunt wraps are banned in both the new and old ordinances, though the definitions were tightened.

In the proposed new ordinance, a blunt wrap is defined as "any product wholly or in part from a tobacco product, manufactured or packaged with loose and removable leaves or section of a leaf, or as a hollow tube, that may be used by the consumer to wrap or contain loose tobacco or other fillers."

It also considers tobacco leaf kits or roll-your-own packages as blunt wraps.

The former ordinance's definition was shorter and did not include language about loose removable leaves.

Cigar pricing and packaging regulations were updated to raise the minimum price for a cigar by 40 cents to $2.90 and the minimum price for two or more cigars from $5 to $5.80.

Language from the state's tobacco regulations was added that stipulates:

  • A $1,000 fine for a first violation and a suspension for up to 30 days and no less than one day
  • A $2,000 fine for a second violation and a suspension of up to 30 days and no less than seven days.
  • A $5,000 fine for three or more violations in a 36-month period and a 30-day suspension.  

In the local regulation, the period between violations was changed from 24 months to 36 months and a section was added that allows the BOH to deny a tobacco license renewal if a retailer has sold to a person under 21 three times within the previous year.

The new ordinance also prohibits any new adult-only retail stores from existing within 25 feet of an existing tobacco permit.

There was a previous discussion about explicitly banning smoking bars but BOH members felt that the ordinance already bans them, as smoking is not prohibited in any bars within city bounds.

The town of Dalton has been on a similar path with Tri-Town, which has been administering a tobacco awareness program since 1994.

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Pittsfield Police 'Back on Track' for Body Camera Pilot

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following a union delay and a grant from the state, the Pittsfield Police Department is prepared to initiate a body camera pilot in the next week or so.

"I can say that all of the unanticipated issues that led to the delay at the end of October have been resolved and we're back on track," Chief Michael Wynn reported to the City Council on Tuesday.

This has been long anticipated, as body cameras have been requested by the council and community members since the police killing of Miguel Estrella in March.

Wynn walked the councilors through the events of the last month.

On Oct. 13, the initial pilot participants were supposed to be selected along with the temporary policy being put out and training scheduled. On the same day, he was notified of concerns from one of the police unions but did not cancel because no members of that union were selected to participate.

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