Restricts low-cost, single cigars sales to minors
Seeking to close a loophole on unregulated products like electronic cigarettes that deliver nicotine, the Boston Public Health Commission’s Board of Health today approved a proposal to treat e-cigarettes like tobacco products, including requiring retail establishments to obtain a permit to sell them, prohibiting their use in the workplace, and restricting their sale to adults only.
The board also approved prohibiting the sale of low-cost, single-sale cigars that have become an attractive option for price-conscious youth looking for less expensive alternatives to cigarettes, and doubling the fines for retailers that sell tobacco products to anyone under age 18 and violate other tobacco control regulations.
``Tobacco exposure continues to be a significant factor that contributes to preventable sickness and death,’’ said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. ``The steps the board has taken today will help reduce young people’s exposure to tobacco and unregulated nicotine products and eliminate exposure to e-cigarette vapors containing nicotine and other known toxins in the workplace.’’
Under the new regulations, retailers must apply for a permit through the Boston Public Health Commission’s Tobacco Control office to sell any nicotine product that is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as a nicotine replacement therapy. E-cigarettes are made of plastic and metal and heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge to create vapor that the smoker inhales. The FDA found through laboratory testing that e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals and carcinogens. Currently, it is legal to sell e-cigarettes to children.
A handful of convenience stores in Boston sell e-cigarettes, according to a survey conducted by the Northeastern University School of Law Public Health Legal Clinic, which also found more stores interested in selling them. The new regulations require that e-cigarettes be placed behind the store counter, like tobacco products, and that they not be sold to minors. E-cigarettes also will not be allowed in the workplace, which includes restaurant patios and decks, and loading docks.
As for cigars, the board approved a requirement that they be sold in their original manufacturer packaging of at least four, which is intended to combat single-sales marketing to youth and discourage their initiation into cigarette smoking. In addition, fines for retailers found in violation of the city’s tobacco control regulations will double – from $100 for the first offense and $400 for the fourth offense in 12 months to $200 for the first offense and $800 for the fourth offense in 24 months.
During the course of a 60-day public comment period and a public hearing, the Board of Health received 296 comments supporting the e-cigarettes restrictions and 596 favoring the cigar packaging change, compared to 34 comments opposing the e-cigarette restrictions and 18 opposing the cigar packaging change.
E-cigarette opponents argued that the product should not be restricted because e-cigarette vapors are not harmful. Proponents argued that e-cigarette solution is known to contain nicotine and a number of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, and that the safety of e-cigarette vapors has not been established by the FDA. Opposition to the cigar packaging regulation mostly came from cigar industry representatives who cited the economic impact; proponents, however, argue that the measure was a reasonable step that could discourage youths from using tobacco products.
The e-cigarette restrictions will take effect immediately; the new cigar packaging regulation goes into effect in 60 days, on January 31, 2012.