NORTH ADAMS >> Following a growing trend statewide, the city has raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.
The new regulations passed by the Board of Health this week not only raise the minimum purchasing age, but they also feature other restrictions like a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco. The regulations take effect beginning in August.
The board considered the regulations for several months and joins other local communities in raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21. In the Berkshires, Pittsfield, Williamstown and the Tri-Town Boards of Health representing Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge, have passed similar measures, as have more than 100 cities and towns across the state.
The new regulations also cap the number of available tobacco retail licenses at 23. There are currently 20 active tobacco retailers in the city. Any package of two or more cigars must be sold for a minimum of $5 under the new regulations.
Advocates for raising the age — some of whom were heard at a public hearing on Wednesday — have argued consistently that research has shown raising the minimum purchasing age reduces smoking rates, and that the brains of people 21 and younger are not yet fully formed.
According to the state Department of Public Health, North Adams teens are some of the most likely in the state to pick up smoking. The city's rate of smoking during pregnancy is 394 percent higher than the state average and the overall adult smoking rate is about twice the state average, according to the Department of Public Health.
Retailers who sell a tobacco product to a person under the age of 21 will face fines, beginning at $100, and could have their license revoked by the board of health.
Brendan Bullett, the chairman of the board, voted against raising the minimum smoking age but approved of all other proposed regulations. He has cited his desire for the decision to be made the state level, which may actually happen sooner rather than later.
Earlier this week, the State House News Service reported that the Senate is likely to vote on a proposal to raise the minimum purchasing age to 21, according to Senate President Stanley Rosenberg.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.