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Pittsfield health officials put local tobacco rules in line with state law

A woman exhales while smoking

State laws on sales of flavored nicotine, electronic vapes and tobacco sales were updated in 2020. Now three years later, the Pittsfield Board of Health has unanimously voted to update the city rules on tobacco sales, bringing local regulations in line with state rules.

PITTSFIELD — Changes to Pittsfield’s tobacco sales rules will go into effect April 1, following an unanimous vote by the Board of Health Wednesday night.

The new rules are the first update the city’s tobacco policies since 2019.

A hearing on new regulations passed without comment from the public or tobacco sellers. The board opted to delay the effective date in order to give the city’s Health Department staff time to update tobacco retailers on the changes.

For much of the last year, the board has worked with Tri-Town Health Department Director James Wilusz to bring the city’s tobacco sales ordinances in line with state regulations.

The approved changes add language from state laws meant to crack down on the sale of flavored tobacco and nicotine products and to increase the punishment for businesses that violate the rules.

“I want to commend the board and the staff … for spending a lot of your energy updating the regulations to make it more streamline for the public,” Wilusz said. “Having one set of regulations that people can understand and follow is a service to the community and the board.”

An update to state law in January 2020 changed the definitions for “tobacco product flavor enhancer” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems” to capture the wide array of nicotine and flavored and tobacco products that joined the market in recent years.

Pittsfield’s new ordinances adopt these definitions, adding electronic cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, pipes as well as vaping pens and hookah pens to the category of electronic nicotine delivery systems.

The new policy also updates the definition for “blunt wraps” to clarify that products sold as cigar “roll-your-own” kits are considered blunt wraps. The sale of blunt wraps remains prohibited.

Along with refreshing the language in city rules, the new ordinances update punishments for violations. Ordinance violations are separated into two groups: violations of state laws and violation of city rules.

The first violation of a state law by a tobacco permit holder or their employees will come with a $1,000 fine and a three-year probation period.

A special case is made for violations that include the sale of tobacco to people under the age of 21. In these instances the board will have the ability to suspend the business’ tobacco sales permit for at least one business day or up to 30 consecutive days.

A second violation would be punishable by a $2,000 fine and permit suspension for at least seven consecutive business days or up to 30 consecutive business days. Three or more violations would result in a $5,000 fine and permit suspension of 30 business days.

For violations of Pittsfield-specific rules, the fine and suspension structure remains the same, but the probation period would expand from two years to three years.

If a business is caught selling tobacco products to underage customers three times within a year, its permit will not be renewed by the board in the following permit year under the new ordinances.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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