Canton toughened its stance against tobacco and nicotine on Monday but backed away from a proposal to ban electronic cigarettes.
The Board of Health voted to raise the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21, and banned so-called nonmedical nicotine-delivery products. This includes dissolvable nicotine tablets and snus, a powder tobacco product.
The main purpose of the new restrictions is to keep tobacco and nicotine away from minors, according to Director of Public Health John L. Ciccotelli.
“They are getting a lot of their tobacco from older siblings and other adult friends of the family, and most of the people doing the purchasing are between the ages of 18 and 21,” Ciccotelli said on Monday.
Electronic cigarettes were originally included among the banned items, but the Board of Health changed that Monday. Electronic cigarettes and nicotine patches and gum are exempt from the ban, but the age to purchase these items also was raised to 21.
Ciccotelli said he thought electronic cigarettes were not an effective quitting aid, but he received hundreds of e-mails and calls pointing to research to the contrary, he said. The same sentiment was expressed at Monday’s hearing.
Karen Carey of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association said electronic cigarettes should be available to people age 18 and older.
“Every adult smoker has the right to have available reduced-risk alternatives,” Carey said.
Steve Ryan of the New England Convenience Store Association said he had not heard of another community banning the alternative nicotine products, and asked Board of Health members to wait for a federal study.
All of the regulations were approved unanimously as part of one package and will take effect Jan. 1. The Board of Health will conduct a five-year study to see if tobacco use declines among Canton’s high school and middle school-aged residents.
If there is no improvement, all the regulations would revert to the current law, but Board of Health member Robert Schneiders said he believed the higher age was here to stay. He noted that other communities are banning tobacco sales up to age 21, and that this could be a “wave of the future.”
“Five years from now, we may have a statewide or countrywide smoking age of 21,” he said.
Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.