By Seth Daniel
The multi-city tobacco control board has sent out letters to Everett retailers this month to prepare them for new smoking regulations that will go into effect on May 1, making the new smoking age 21 and sharply curtailing the sale of flavored cigars and e-cigarettes.
The Everett Board of Health and the Five City Tobacco Collaborative held several public hearings on the matter last fall, and voted the measure in at the end of February.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he has recently been contacted following the letters, but he feels that the new ordinance gets it right for the residents of Everett.
“I am very pleased and proud of the diligence and work put forth by the board of health in the City of Everett,” he said. “By raising the minimum age to 21, I strongly feel this can help keep these products out of the hands of our younger residents. I was pleased to attend meetings regarding this issue and heard from many local business owners. Although at the end of the day I believe that the Board of Health got this issue right.
The largest change will be the increasing of the smoking age in Everett from 18 to 21. Already, Revere has enacted the same ordinance to raise the age, and Chelsea and Boston did so a few years ago.
“There are about two-thirds of the cities and towns that have changed the age now, and so that becomes more of an enforcement issue,” said DJ Wilson, tobacco control director for the Mass Municipal Association (MMA).
The larger change, however, and one that goes further than the ordinance in Revere, delves into the pricing of cigars and the sale of flavored tobacco products.
Wilson said some of the single cigars sold in Everett retail shops can go for as little as 60 cents, which he said is enticing to youth.
The new law would require that the minimum price for a single cigar be $2.50.
“It’s not a tax,” he said. “The extra money goes to the retailer. They can keep the extra money and decide how they want to proceed. People in Everett were selling these single-cigars for 60 cents.”
A controversial part of the new ordinance has been the regulating of flavored tobacco, including flavored cigars and flavored juice for e-cigarettes.
“This change will mean that all convenience stores in Everett will now only be able to sell plain tobacco and menthol flavored cigarettes,” he said. “We’ll be left with about two to four places where adults can go in and purchase these products. It will eliminate it being sold on most every corner.”
The new law allows only certified and licensed tobacco shops to sell the flavored juice and flavored tobacco. There are approximately two to four of those such stores that would qualify to sell them to adults 21 and over.
Wilson said the flavored juices for e-cigarettes and the flavored cigars are seen as being targeted towards youth. He said the most popular flavors of the two flavored products are green apple and grape. Not many adults, he said, are after those tobacco flavors.
“Green apple is one of the top three flavors and grape is the most popular,” he said. “A lot of young people are drawn to that , but very, very few adults are. If an adult really loves their daily fix of grape flavored cigars, they can still get them.”
Wilson said the matter could be challenged in court. However, he said a case from Providence involving the regulation of flavored tobacco products has already been tried, and the City won the case. He said it is in the same federal court district as Everett, and so that decision allows for strong precedent in the City’s favor.
“It’s in the same district and so we’re going to hang our hat on that decision,” he said.