Published in the November 6, 2015 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Board of Health has amended the town’s tobacco regulations to make it even more difficult for kids to get ahold of tobacco products. The board’s action took place after a scheduled Oct. 28 public hearing. No one from the public spoke at the hearing for or against the new regs.

The regulations are aimed at retail stores that sell tobacco products, such as convenience stores. Smoke Shops, such as Mark’s Smoke Shop on Main Street and Towne News & Smoke Shop on North Avenue are exempt from the regulations, as minors are prohibited from entering those premises.

The changes to the regulations primarily addressed two areas: The sale of flavored tobacco products and the sale of individual cigars and inexpensive packages of cigars.

“It’s the flavored tobacco products and the cheap cigars that are targeted toward kids,” said Board of Health Chairman Alison Mehlman.

The updated regulations prohibit the sale of single cigars having a retail price of $2.50 or less. In addition, the regulations now state that “No person shall sell or distribute or cause to be sold or distributed any package of two or more cigars, unless such package is priced for sale at $5 or more.

Another new section of the regulations prohibits the sale of
flavored tobacco products. More traditional tobacco flavorings such as menthol and mint are exempted but other flavors are prohibited. Banned are “tastes or aromas relating to any fruit, chocolate, vanilla, honey, candy, cocoa, dessert, alcoholic beverage, herb or spice.”

Tobacco Program Coordinator Maureen Buzby said that while cigarette smoking is down, an alarming increase has been seen in youth use of other tobacco and nicotine only products.

“The CDC reported that e-cigarette use in middle school and high school students more than doubled between 2011 and 2012, Buzby said, “and it tripled between 2013 and 2014. We know that many kids start off with small flavored cigars/cigarillos. The sweet flavors attract young people as do the cheap prices, often as low as 79 cents each.”

A survey was conducted last year by the local Wake-Up 84 Youth Chapter. When asked, “What was the main reason you tried an e-cigarette/flavored cigar?”  45 percent of the 447 Wakefield High School students who completed the survey reported that they were attracted to the flavor. When asked, “If e-cigarettes and cigars were not flavored would you use them?” 65 percent answered, “No.”

“These products make it easier for kids and first-timers to try smoking/vaping because they come in fruit flavors such as grape, strawberry, kiwi, peach, mango, watermelon and even candy flavors such as bubblegum, gummy bear and clown candy,” Buzby said. “The flavors make them seem harmless but the truth is these sweet flavors still have nicotine and once a person get hooked on nicotine, they may also be more likely to try other products. 80 to 90 percent of adult smokers started smoking in their teens. The goal is to reduce the attractiveness of these products so that young people do not start using them.”

The newly amended regulations are just the latest efforts by the Board of Health to limit access to tobacco products by minors. In 2014, the board hiked the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in Wakefield from 18 to 21. In addition, pharmacies and drug stores in Wakefield are prohibited from selling tobacco products.

Mehlman said that the board was doing everything it could to prevent kids from using tobacco. She called the latest amendments “one more step to keep tobacco products out of kids’ hands.”