The debate over raising the age to buy tobacco

Store owner encourages other businesses to stop selling tobacco

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Some say it’s the right thing to do for public health, others say it just means tobacco sales will be lost to online retailers or stores out of state.

State Street Fruit Store is a locally owner grocery store years ahead of its time. Rich Cooper owns Cooper’s Corner and the State Street Fruit Store. They haven’t sold cigarettes in 17 years, and he told 22News they’ve received nothing but positive feedback from their customers.

“Initially, when we stopped selling cigarettes, we had customers coming in who had never been in the store before saying, ‘I’m coming here because you stopped selling cigarettes. I think it’s a wonderful thing you are doing,’” said Cooper. “Even many years later, I’m having customers come in and say, ‘I remember when you stopped selling cigarettes, congratulations to you.’”

Cooper encourages other businesses to stop selling tobacco too. He said they’ll see increased sales, create a better public image, and cut down on customer wait time taken up by verifying an I.D.

However, the Retailers Association of Massachusetts told 22News they think the plan would force layoffs, cause businesses to close, and lose tax revenue.

According to Ryan Kearney, the General Counsel at Retailers Association of Massachusetts, “It’s not just the loss of tobacco sales that we are talking about. Today’s shopper wants that one stop shop. If they go in and get their tobacco, they are also going to buy whatever else they need whether its eggs, milk, candy scratch tickets. All of those sales are lost to somebody else.”

Chris O’Leary of Northampton said he doesn’t think it wouldn’t stop teens from getting what they want. “Get your big brother or sister to buy some, or take some from someone off the street, or from their parents. If kids want to get their hands on something, they can.”

Several Hampshire County communities, including Amherst and South Hadley, have already raised the legal age to 21.

Comments are closed.