Friday June 8, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Add Pittsfield to the growing list of Massachusetts communities that have banned tobacco sales at stores with pharmacies.

The prohibition is one of several health regulations the city’s Board of Health has adopted aimed primarily at keeping youths from buying cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.

The five-member board this week unanimously approved the revisions to its tobacco control regulations, effective Aug. 1.

The ban will affect 10 city businesses with pharmacies belonging to six retail chains. The traditional pharmacies include four Rite Aid stores and one CVS. The prohibition would also extend to the two Stop & Shop supermarkets, along with two other grocers, Big Y and Price Chopper, and the Walmart department store.

Earlier this spring, Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge together became the first Berkshire County communities to enact the pharmacy ban, a statewide movement that began four years ago. Since 2008, a total of 36 cities and towns, Boston and Springfield included, have prevented nearly 320 stores from selling tobacco products -- 58 of which are independent pharmacies and the rest major retailers.

While there’s no proof the ban will curtail youth smoking, reducing access to tobacco products increases the chances of a healthier city, according to Dr. Philip Adamo, chairman of the Pittsfield Board Health.

"There’s plenty of science out there that shows tobacco is detrimental to our health ... and it’s not just for the smokers, but people who are around the smokers," he said.

Adamo’s remarks came Wednesday night following a public hearing on the anti-tobacco regulations, supported by all who spoke before the five-member panel.

Several felt that pharmacies, as well as other health-related businesses, selling tobacco products doesn’t make sense.

"It’s not fair to sell things detrimental to your health in a place that is supposed to promote health and wellness," said Bailey Stokes.

The president of the Taconic High School chapter of SADD, Students Against Destructive Decisions, cited how their group is part of a statewide movement called Youth Alive 84.

"The 84 stands for the 84 percent of [Massachusetts] youth who are tobacco-free," Stokes said. "We want to make the number 100."

The board did invite representatives of the affected stores to comment in writing or at the hearing regarding the ban, but they received zero response, according to board member Jay Green.

The ban and other regulations approved in an effort to curb youth smoking were developed in collaboration with the Tri-Town Health Department. Tri-Town, the primary health agency for Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, administers the state-funded, local tobacco awareness program to nine other communities, including Pittsfield, North Adams and Great Barrington.

Tri-Town director James J. Wilusz applauded the city’s health board, as did the Tri-Town board, with approving a regulation to prevent the sale of nicotine delivery devices to minors and ban their use indoors. Previously, someone under the age of 18 could buy so-called "e-cigarettes," which deliver the nicotine fix without the tobacco.

"Pittsfield is sending a strong message to the community that tobacco use and prevention is a priority and that the board’s actions will further protect our youth from being influenced by tobacco products," Wilusz said after the meeting.

In addition, the revised to bacco regulations in Pittsfield, as well as in Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, include a ban on tobacco sales in educational institutions, the elimination of outdoor smoking where food is served, and the requirement that tobacco retailers post signs with a smoking cessation hotline phone number.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.