Somerville has recently adopted new rules aimed at making electronic and menthol cigarettes less available and visible to teens.
The Board of Health voted Dec. 13 to restrict sale of the two products to 21-and-over adult tobacco stores effective April 1, 2019. With the new rules, stores open to people under 21 will no longer be allowed to sell e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.
Somerville becomes the first municipality in Massachusetts to adopt such restrictions, according to the city.
Like tobacco products, electronic and menthol cigarettes can be sold only to people 18 and over. But city officials said the new rules will decrease the allure and the availability of electronic and menthol cigarettes to teens of all ages.
E-cigarettes can serve as an entryway to nicotine use by youths, city officials said, citing growing concerns nationally over the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes.
The US Food and Drug Administration recently enacted new regulations restricting youth access to e-cigarettes, city officials noted, and the agency also indicated it would seek a ban on menthol in all tobacco products, which has been shown to have a similar appeal to youth.
In Somerville, a Youth Risk Behavior Survey this year found that while self-reported alcohol and traditional cigarette use in Somerville teens is declining, reported e-cigarette use almost doubled between 2016 and 2018.
At a public hearing, some community members voiced support for the restrictions, while retailers expressed concerns about the effect on their businesses.
“As the Board of Health, we work very hard to balance public health and business concerns. With that, our ultimate responsibility is to protect the health of Somerville residents, particularly youth,” Board of Health member Robert Ciccia said in a statement.
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