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Tobacco Age Raised, Flavored Products Banned in Ashburnham

November 6, 2018

ASHBURNHAM -- Restrictions for flavored tobacco and raising the age to 21 to purchase tobacco products in town were among regulations unanimously approved Monday by the Board of Health.

“These are strong public health policies to put in place,” Tina Grosowsky of the Central MA Tobacco Free Community Partnership said during the hearing on the regulations. “Policy is sustainable over time.”

The board is expected to officially sign off on the regulations at its next meeting in December. They will go into effect before the year is out.

Efforts to restrict flavored tobacco sales was the main point of discussion during the hearing.

Joan Hamlet of the Central Massachusetts Tobacco Control Alliance worked with the town on its regulations.

She said of six businesses in Ashburnham that sell tobacco, most don’t carry flavored products.

Of the 18 communities that are part of the Tobacco Control Alliance, most have tobacco flavor restrictions, including cities and towns that surround Ashburnham, Hamlet said.

“We have Ashburnham as an island now,” she said.

Adam Ponte, a Worcester-based lawyer from the firm Fletcher Tilton, spoke out against the flavor restrictions on behalf of an association of small businesses in the region.

“It doesn’t actually serve the interests of youth and children in Ashburnham,” he told the board. “These regulations serve to damage the small business owners.”

Ponte used flavored alcohol as a comparison to argue that restrictions for flavored tobacco products are arbitrary.

About 130 communities in the state have passed flavored tobacco restrictions, said DJ Wilson of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, who has worked with Hamlet and Grosowsky.

Raising Ashburnham’s legal tobacco sale age from 18 to 21 is among the passed regulations.

A state law that will raise the purchase age from 18 to 21 across Massachusetts would allow people who are 18 before the end of the year to buy tobacco products in 2019. The town’s regulations seek to close that loophole.

Currently, the town prohibits the sale of single cigars and blunt wraps. Drug stores, pharmacies, and educational institutions can’t sell tobacco products. The regulations, which have been in place since February 2016, also cap the number of tobacco sales permits in town to six.

Other cities and towns in the area are exploring or have passed restrictions on tobacco sales, the type of products available, and the age to purchase them.

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