Age to buy tobacco products in Northampton will be raised to 21

Some say it's unfair to businesses

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – The City of Northampton joins several other western Massachusetts cities and towns Thursday night in raising the legal tobacco age to 21.

The Northampton Board of Health unanimously voted to approve regulations restricting the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products, which includes e-cigarettes.

The Board listened to public comments before the vote, including pleas from business people. Adam Hazel, the owner “The Vault” vape store, said, “It’s putting the little guy out, and I think it’s very harmful to Northampton. Especially with the rate of closing businesses in the area.”

Some say raising the age is a proven way to stop young people from smoking, but people 22News spoke with aren’t so sure. “It seems to me that it’s a dying habit anyway,” said Brennan McGuire of Enfield, CT. “I don’t know that many people under 30 who smoke regardless. On top of that, if you can just cross the river into one of the neighboring towns to get it, it does no good for Northampton.”

The last time the health department updated their smoking regulations was in 2014. Northampton’s total tobacco restrictions will include:

  • 21 to buy
  • Restricted sale of flavored tobacco
  • No more 27 total sales locations
  • No smoking within 25 feet of a city building
  • No smoking at parks or recreation areas
  • No tobacco sold at pharmacies
  • Everyone who purchases must be carded

Public Health Director Merridith O’Leary told 22News tobacco companies are targeting teens; “When you walk into a store, this is what children see. Their eyes are drawn to it because it’s very colorful. A lot of the nicotine delivery products that they sell look like candy with flavors like tutti-fruity.”

Retailers Association of Massachusetts General Council Ryan Kearney said the regulations would put Northampton businesses at competitive disadvantage; “You are now going to interfere with their ability to buy that product in Northampton. Now that business in Northampton is going to lose that business, along with any ancillary business that comes along with it. You are slowing them down, but you are not stopping them from buying the product.”

“A majority of Massachusetts residents now live in cities and towns with the minimum age is 21,” said Mass. Municipal Association Tobacco Control Director D.J. Wilson.

In addition to raising the minimum legal age to buy tobacco, the Board of Health also approved to decrease the number of tobacco permits in the city from 36 to 28.

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