Board’s plan to increase tobacco-buying age to 21 in Newburyport riles store owners, mayor

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A proposal by the Newburyport Board of Health to increase the tobacco-purchasing age to 21 has the city’s retailers fuming and Mayor Donna Holaday vowing to block the change.

The three-member board wants this city of nearly 17,700 to become the latest Massachusetts community to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products — which is currently 18 — to the highest in the nation as part of an aggressive antismoking campaign.

“This will help protect teens and may prevent many people from ever starting to smoke,” said Bob Bracey, the city’s health director. The health board is trying to keep cigarettes out of the hands of young people, not put retailers out of business, he said.

Holaday said she will fight to prevent the new regulations, even if it means taking the city’s largely independent Board of Health to court.

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