Effective March 1, the minimum age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products in Marion will be 21.
On January 26, the Marion Board of Health voted to raise the minimum age for purchasing tobacco and nicotine delivery products, including electronic cigarettes and other devices that create a nicotine-containing vapor for inhalation. This process is also known as “vaping.”
The goal is to reduce underage smoking and vaping, which is seemingly marketed towards and appealing to kids because of its fruity flavors.
“Kids are coming out of middle school and trying to decide what they’re going to be, what makes them cool,” said Robert Collett, director of the Cape Cod Regional Tobacco Program. The board hopes that raising the minimum age, along with the high price of cigarettes that is now over $10 a pack, will lower youth access and prevent nicotine addiction.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.
The board also voted to abolish the sale of Blunt wraps, which are often flavored and used for rolling marijuana cigarettes. The sale of single cigars will no longer be allowed; however, the town will allow the sale of a minimum packaging of four cigars, priced at no less than $5.
The sale of roll-your-own cigarette rolling machines is also prohibited under the regulation.
Statistics show that 80% of adult smokers started before their 18th birthday. Roughly 15% of students nationwide who currently smoke cigarettes started before the age of 18, and 14% usually obtained them by buying them in a store.
The penalty for selling to an underage person starts at $100 for a first violation, and increases to $200 for a second and $300 for a third or subsequent violation within two years of the second violation.
The town itself will enforce the new minimum age since the legal age to purchase tobacco or nicotine products in Massachusetts remains at 18.
Six businesses in Marion will be affected by the sanitary code changes. Health Agent Karen Walega said these stores will be notified of the changes via registered mail.
The Board of Health also added e-cigarettes and vaping devices to the regulation prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces. The penalties for violating the no smoking in public law are the same as selling to an underage buyer.
During the public hearing for the smoking and tobacco regulation changes, no residents were in attendance to either support or oppose the new measures.
According to Collett, Marion is joining 90 other Massachusetts municipalities – about 43% of the state – in changing the regulations. Wareham, he said, just passed their new smoking and tobacco regulations last week, effective April 1.
“I want to talk to Rochester about it,” said Walega, who is also the health agent for Rochester. “But I want to add the flavored tobacco ban to it. I think that is the key to the whole thing.”
During previous meetings, some Board of Health members in Marion opposed regulating the merchandise sale of flavored tobacco, preferring to stick only with the age minimum increase and public smoking prohibition.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for February 9 at 4:30 pm at the Marion Town House.
By Jean Perry