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Boston Proposal Cracks Down on E-Cigarette Sales, Use in the Workplace

Date Posted: September 29, 2011

The Boston Board of Health Commission has approved a proposal governing the sale and regulation of electronic cigarettes. The proposed rules were presented by the board during the commission’s meeting on September 8th and were unanimously approved. The proposal is now subject to a month-long public comment period and a public hearing on October 4th after which the commission is scheduled to take a final deciding vote on November 10th.

The commission’s proposal centers on three main issues:

  • Require retailers to obtain a permit to sell electronic cigarettes
  • Prohibit the sale of e-cigs to minors
  • Ban the use of e-cigarettes in the work place

In addition to electronic cigarette regulation, the proposal calls for doubling fines for retailers who sell tobacco products to those under 18 or who violate other tobacco control regulations. Furthermore, the new rules would also prohibit the sale of low-cost, single cigars, called cigarillos.

The board expressed their concerned regarding the lack of knowledge, regulation and enforcement on certain tobacco products. “We don’t know what people are inhaling with these e-cigarettes,” said Nikysha Harding, director of tobacco control for the commission, adding that “the sale of low-cost, single cigars just slightly larger than cigarettes has become an attractive option for price-conscious youth looking for alternatives to cigarettes.”

The Boston Board of Health Commission is scheduled to take its final vote on the proposed regulations on November 10th. If approved, the new regulations would become effective within 30 days with the exception of the cigarillo restrictions which would go into effect 60 days later.

With the board’s new set of rules, retailers would be required to apply for a permit through the commission’s Tobacco Control Office to sell electronic cigarettes and place them behind the counter.  Their sale would be prohibited to minors and e-cigarette use would be banned in the workplace, which includes restaurant patios and decks, and loading docks. In addition, retailers would be required to sell Cigarillos in their original manufacturer packaging containing at least 5 units and bearing a health warning, a measure  intended to combat single-sales marketing to youth.

Fines for retailers found in violation of the city’s tobacco control regulations would double — from $100 for the first offense and $400 for the fourth offense in 12 months, to $200 for the first offense and $800 for the fourth offense in 24 months.

While only a handful of convenience stores in Boston currently sell e-cigarettes, according to a survey conducted by the Northeastern University School of Law Public Health Legal Clinic, the commission wants to ensure that they are properly regulated due to the growing demand.

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