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Bellingham Board of Health Holds Public Hearing on on Amendments to Tobacco Regulations

May 27, 2018 12:40PM ● By Pamela Johnson
written by Sandra Cote, Contributing Writer

The Bellingham Board of Health held a public hearing on April 19, 2018, at the Town Hall.  Cheryl Sbarra, J.D., Director of Policy and Law for the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, and Marilyn Edge, Director of the Tobacco & Alcohol Prevention Collaborative, appeared before the BOH officials and general public to present their amendments to the current Tobacco Regulations.  

(Please note that these amendments are shown out of the context of the full tobacco regulations; footnote numbers are shown in parentheses.) Amendments were made regarding the following sections:

A.  Statement of Purpose:

Whereas 18.1 percent of current smokers aged <18 years reported that they usually directly purchased their cigarettes from stores (I.e. convenience store, supermarket, or discount store) or gas stations, and among 11th grade males this rate was nearly 30 percent;7

Whereas the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the current use of electronic cigarettes, a product sold in dozens of flavors that appeal to youth, among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014; 8

C.  Definitions:

Adult-Only Retail Tobacco Store:  An establishment that is not allowed to possess a retail food permit whose primary purpose is to sell or offer for sale but not for resale, tobacco products and tobacco paraphernalia, in which the sale of other products is merely incidental and in which the entry of persons under the minimum legal sales age is prohibited at all times, and maintains a valid permit for the retail sale of tobacco products as required to be issues by the Bellingham Board of Health.

(7) CDC (2013) Youth Risk Behavior, Surveillance Summaries (MMWR 2014:  63 (No SS-04).  Retrieved from:

(8) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  2015. “Tobacco Use Among Middle and High School Students—United States, 2011-2014,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) 64(14):  381-385.

Smoking Bar:  An establishment that primarily is engaged in the retail sale of tobacco products for consumption by customers on the premises and is required by Mass. General Law Ch. 270, 22 to maintain a valid permit to operate a smoking bar issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.  “Smoking bar” shall include, but not be limited to, those establishments that are commonly known as “cigar bars” and “hookah bars”.

Tobacco Product:  Any product containing, made, or derived from tobacco or nicotine that is intended for human consumption, whether smoked, chewed, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means, including, but not limited to:  cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, snuff; or electronic cigarettes, electronic cigars, electronic pipes, electronic hookah, liquid nicotine, “e-liquids” or other similar products, regardless of nicotine content, that rely on vaporization or aerosolization.  “Tobacco product” includes any component or part of a tobacco product.  “Tobacco product” does not include any product that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration either as a tobacco use cessation product or for other medical purposes and which is being marketed and sold prescribed solely for the approved purpose.

D.  Tobacco Sales to Persons Under the Minimum Legal Sales Age Prohibited:

b.  The owner or other person in charge of a shop or other place used to sell tobacco products that rely on vaporization or aerosolization, as defined herein as “tobacco products”, at retail shall conspicuously post a sign stating that “The sale of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to someone under the minimum legal sales age of 18years is prohibited.”  The notice shall be no smaller than 8.5 inches by 11 inches and shall be posted conspicuously in the retail establishment or other place in such a manner so that it may be readily seen by a person standing at or approaching the cash register.  The notice shall directly face the purchaser and shall not be obstructed from view or placed at a height of less than four (4) feet or greater than nine (9) fee from the floor.

E.  Tobacco Product Sales Permit

9.  Maximum Number of Tobacco Product Sales Permits.
b.  As of the effective date of this regulation, there shall be no new adult-only retail tobacco stores in the Town of Bellingham.

  a.)  Any tobacco sales permit held by an existing adult-only retail tobacco store not renewed, whether because the retailer no longer sells tobacco products, or the adult-only retail tobacco store closes or is sold, must be returned to the Bellingham Board of Health and it will be permanently retired.

G.  Out-of-Package Sales:

3.  All retailers must comply with 940 CMR 21.05 which reads: “It shall be an unfair or deceptive act or practice for any person to sell or distribute nicotine in a liquid or gel substance in Massachusetts after March 15, 2016, unless the liquid or gel product is contained in a child-resistant package that, at a minimum, meets the standard for special packaging as set for the in 15 U.S. C.  ꞩ1471 through 1476 and 16 CFR ꞩ1700 et. Seq.”

K.  Incorporation of Attorney General Regulation 940 CMR 21.00:

The sale or distribution of tobacco products, as defined herein, must comply with those provisions found at 940 CMR 21.00 (“Sale and Distribution of Cigarettes, Smokeless Tobacco Products, and Electronic Smoking Devices in Massachusetts”).

O.  Synthetic/Organic Mind-Altering Substances.

The sale of synthetic or organic mind-altering substances including, but not limited to botanical incense and synthetic marijuana is prohibited in the Town of Bellingham.

The officials then opened the hearing for any discussion.

Ms. Anna Bettencourt asked if there was anything specifically being amended towards ‘retailers’ in the town of Bellingham.  Ms. Sbarra replied “no.”

With no further questions, a vote was taken and the amendments presented by Ms. Sbarra and Ms. Edge were unanimously adopted and amended by Patricia Leclair, BOH Chairman; Kelly McGovern, Vice Chair, Vincent A. Forte, Jr., BOH member and Michael Catalano, Health Agent.

The effective date for adopting these amendments:  May 1, 2018.

To read the complete minutes from the hearing regarding Restricting the Sale of Tobacco Products, please go to under "Agendas and Minutes."

A special thanks to Ms. Tina M. Griffin, Minutes Clerk, for her assistance in clarifying some information for me regarding the hearing.






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