EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 14, 2014

Board may toughen regulations against tobacco products

By Paul Tennant

---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The Board of Health will soon consider whether to implement more regulations in town against the sale of nicotine products.

Two board members who are medical doctors, Chairman Thomas Trowbridge and Frank MacMillan, told The Eagle-Tribune they particularly want to do everything possible to keep tobacco and nicotine products from children under 18. State law has banned the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors for many years.

While children cannot legally purchase cigarettes, there is no state law that prohibits them from buying electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes.

Ron Beauregard, director of the Healthy Communities Tobacco Control Program, recently presented several proposed regulations to the Board of Health, including a prohibition against selling e-cigarettes to minors.

Another would require any store that sells tobacco products to post a sign promoting the smoking cessation hotline sponsored by the state Department of Public Health.

Other possible rules presented by Beauregard include banning the sale of blunt wraps, hollow tubes made of tobacco; limiting the number of stores in the town that are permitted to sell tobacco; requiring cheap cigars – less than $2.50 each – to be packaged in groups of at least four; barring the use of e-cigarettes in areas where smoking tobacco is not allowed; and prohibiting smoking in outdoor spaces of restaurants where food and beverages are served or consumed.

MacMillan said he does not consider himself to be a “nanny state person,” but smoking is a public health issue, he said.

“Nicotine addiction destroys lives,” he said. While e-cigarettes may not contain the toxic substances that tobacco has, they nevertheless have nicotine, he said. MacMillan said he thinks there is a strong possibility that young people who use e-cigarettes will become addicted to nicotine, then switch to tobacco cigarettes to satisfy their cravings.

He said he’s not persuaded that people who use e-cigarettes will stay away from real butts.

“It is in our nature to be compulsive about things,” MacMillan, a gastroenterologist, said.

Two years ago, the Board of Health, with prompting from both Trowbridge and MacMillan, asked the drugstores in town to voluntarily stop selling tobacco products. Both noted that pharmacies are health care facilities – and suggested it’s incongruous for such an establishment to sell products that are proven killers.

CVS, which operates two pharmacies in North Andover, recently announced that it plans to discontinue the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Trowbridge, noting that the corporation made this decision without being ordered to do so by a governmental agency.

“It is a tremendous step forward,” Trowbridge, an oral surgeon, said.

The Board of Health will discuss the proposed regulations at its next meeting, which has not been scheduled yet. A public hearing will then take place at a subsequent meeting, perhaps in April or May, Trowbridge said.