NATO Challenges Local Massachusetts Proposals to Set Cigar Prices

In its continuing efforts to respond to local tobacco ordinances, NATO submitted comments this past week to the boards of health in Saugus and Bedford, Mass. Each of these local health boards is considering a tobacco regulation ordinance that includes a provision to require cigars to be sold in packages of four or more and at minimum wholesale and retail prices.

While most local boards of health in Massachusetts that have declined to adopt this kind of cigar package and price provision, the Saugus and Bedford boards of health continue to consider this kind of restriction.

According to research conducted by NATO, while the state of Massachusetts has a minimum cigarette pricing law, there is no similar law in the state setting the minimum price of other tobacco products such as cigars. Also, the Massachusetts legislature has not passed a statute authorizing local boards of health to set minimum prices for cigars. In fact, statutory grants of authority to Massachusetts boards of health make no reference whatsoever to a local health board having the power to ban the sale of legal cigar products in certain package sizes or set minimum cigar prices.

In fact, under state law, Massachusetts local boards of health have the responsibilities to oversee drinking water wells, bathing beaches, sewage disposal and septic systems, solid waste disposal, air quality, food protection, the housing and sanitary code, animal and insect control, cemeteries and burial permits, communicable disease reporting and control and occupational and community health issues. Local boards of health in the state also assist in enforcing indoor smoking restrictions.

Based on this apparent lack of statutory authority to ban the sale of certain cigars in various package sizes and set cigar prices, NATO has requested that the Saugus and Bedford boards of health not adopt the cigar package and cigar pricing restrictions that are a part of proposed tobacco regulations being considered by these health boards.

There are other Massachusetts local boards of health that are considering similar cigar restrictions, and NATO will continue to oppose this kind of restrictive action relating to cigars.


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