Boston Board of Health Issues New Tobacco Product Rules

E-cigarettes to be treated as tobacco products; cigars must be in packages of four

BOSTON -- The Boston Public Health Commission's Board of Health last week approved several new regulations affecting tobacco retailers. Electronic cigarettes now will be treated like tobacco products, it said, including requirements for retail establishments to obtain a permit to sell them, to place them behind the store counter and to not sell them to minors.

A handful of convenience stores in Boston sell e-cigarettes and additional stores are interested in selling them, according to a survey conducted by the Northeastern University School of Law Public Health Legal Clinic. E-cigarettes also will not be allowed in the workplace, which includes restaurant patios and decks, and loading docks.

The board also approved prohibiting the sale of low-cost, single-sale cigars, which it says have become "an attractive option for price-conscious youth looking for less-expensive alternatives to cigarettes." Cigars will now be required to be sold in their original manufacturer packaging of at least four.

It also is doubling fines for retailers that sell tobacco products to anyone under age 18 and violate other tobacco control regulations--from $100 to $200 for the first offense and from $400 for the fourth offense in 12 months to $800 for the fourth offense in 24 months.

Under the new regulations, retailers must apply for a permit through the Boston Public Health Commission's Tobacco Control office to sell any nicotine product that is not approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) as a nicotine replacement therapy.

"The steps the board has taken today will help reduce young people's exposure to tobacco and unregulated nicotine products and eliminate exposure to e-cigarette vapors containing nicotine and other known toxins in the workplace,'" said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

During the course of a 60-day public comment period and a public hearing, the board received 296 comments supporting the e-cigarettes restrictions and 596 favoring the cigar packaging change, compared to 34 comments opposing the e-cigarette restrictions and 18 opposing the cigar packaging change.

E-cigarette opponents argued that the product should not be restricted because e-cigarette vapors are not harmful.  Proponents argued that e-cigarette solution is known to contain nicotine and a number of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, and that the safety of e-cigarette vapors has not been established by the FDA.

Opposition to the cigar packaging regulation mostly came from cigar industry representatives who cited the economic impact; proponents, however, argued that the measure was a reasonable step that could discourage youths from using tobacco products.

The e-cigarette restrictions took effect immediately, while the new cigar packaging regulation goes into effect on January 31, 2012.