NORTH READING – This month the North Reading Board of Health enacted regulations focused on reducing tobacco use, especially among youth. The new policies set minimum pricing for cigars, prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine to minors, removes tobacco products at pharmacies and caps the number of establishments licensed to sell tobacco in town. The regulations go into effect on March 1.
Under the new law, individually sold cigars will have a minimum sales price of $2.50 and packages of cigars must be sold for at least $5. The minimum pricing is in reaction to the proliferation of inexpensive single cigars (many of them containing fruit and candy flavors) selling for about dollar.
“The Board of Health is right on the mark on this one,” said Ron Beauregard, director of the Healthy Communities Tobacco Program, who provides advice to the Board on tobacco control policy. “The idea of buying a single, cheap cigar should be as unimaginable as selling a single, loose cigarette. The Board should be lauded for helping put an end to easy access to bargain basement prices on cigars.”
Beauregard cited data from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicating that the percentage of high school students in Massachusetts who reported the use of cigars within the past 30 days rose from 11.8 percent in 2003 to 14.3 percent in 2011. He also pointed to research showing that increased cigar prices significantly decreases the probability of male adolescent cigar use, with a 10 percent increase in cigar prices reducing use by 3.4 percent.
The new regulations also address the lack of an age requirement for the purchase of electronic cigarettes. The Board, again citing a CDC study, noted that that electronic cigarette use among middle and high school students doubled from 2011 to 2012. “The Board wanted to be clear that electronic cigarettes, most of which contain nicotine, are an age-restricted product that cannot be sold to minors,” said Martin Fair, North Reading Health Agent.
By passing the regulations, North Reading also joins over 100 other cities and towns in Massachusetts prohibiting tobacco sales at pharmacies, including Reading, Stoneham and Melrose.