Scituate health officials voted to increase the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21, as part of a range of new regulations designed to make purchasing and using tobacco products more stringent.
At the Board of Health meeting on Monday night, members increased the age limit, limited the use of e-cigarettes in public places, outlawed cigar and hookah bars, and restricted the sale of single cigars costing under $2.50.
The new laws were coupled with increased fees for tobacco licenses – to $200 from $100 a year - and increased the penalties for violations.
“With every action there is a reaction,” said Board Chairman Russell Clark of the changes. “But the business owners didn’t [speak against it]. One business owner had some of the cheaper single cigars. Our regulation goes into effect May 1, and I hope that gives them enough time to dispose of that product.”
Board members have discussed changes to the regulations for weeks, but had said they probably wouldn’t pass a change to the age limits.
Despite initial thoughts that an age increase to 21 from the current 18 would be “drastic,” Clark said the board ultimately felt it was the right move.
“We were leaning maybe towards 19. Last night we said, 'If we’re going to do it, let's just do it.' Twenty-one seemed to be the number, and if that’s what liquor sales are, then maybe that’s what tobacco sales should be,” Clark said.
Only a few other Massachusetts towns, including Needham, Sharon, Arlington, Canton, Ashland, Dedham, Dover, and Wellesley, have increased the limit to 21. Several others – Brookline, Belmont, Watertown, Westwood, Walpole, and Sudbury – have limits at 19.
“I don’t know if it was something people said it needed to be changed, but everyone I’ve talked to said it was a good thing, and a lot of people I’ve talked to are smokers,” Clark said. “…I think it will be accepted, and if there is fallout, we can review it at a further time. But we’ve made a pretty good decision.”