By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The Board of Selectmen met with several members of the Shrewsbury Board of Health (BOH) during the selectmen’s May 26 meeting to discuss the town’s participation in the Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance’s (CMRPHA) efforts.
The issue of e-cigarettes was discussed, which the BOH feels is a way to hook children on tobacco products in general and nicotine in particular.
The Central Mass Regional Public Health Alliance is “a coalition of seven municipalities (Grafton, Holden, Leicester, Millbury, Shrewsbury, West Boylston, and the city of Worcester) working cooperatively to create and sustain a viable, cost-effective, and labor-efficient regional public health district,” according to its mission statement.
In Shrewsbury, the BOH runs “stings” to identify retailers who are selling tobacco products to children under the age of 18. The board also educates stores as to state laws regarding tobacco, seeks to reduce environmental tobacco smoke, and works to educate the public on what it sees as the tobacco industry’s relentless efforts to get people of all ages hooked on nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, which are sold with special flavors (such as bubble gum) that make them particularly sought by children under the age of 18. In a latest development, according to the BOH, e-cigarette manufacturers are selling flavored nicotine drops (“e-juice”) with which a user can re-energize an e-cigarette for up to 500-800 “puffs.” Some kids, according to the BOH, are simply drinking the drops, leading in some cases to nicotine poisoning and faster addiction. The “puffs” from e-cigarettes contain unknown toxins, according to the board, with unknown long-term effects.
The CMRPHA is seeking to have e-cigarettes regulated as tobacco products, although this has so far not been in the works for the state legislature. The CMRPHA would require “quit line toll-free phone number displays” at all retail stores selling tobacco products in an effort to get customers to try and quit using nicotine products. The BOH wants several rules imposed upon e-cigarettes: regulation as a nicotine delivery system; a cessation sign at all retail stores selling them; a complete ban on e-cigarette sales to children; and limiting flavored e-cigarette sales to adults only and only where smoking is not already banned.
Board of Selectmen Chair Moira Miller responded to the presentation with the comment that she would prefer the free market to regulate what and how such products were sold rather than add another layer of regulation to the already heavy load of rules imposed on the sale and use of tobacco products, but she did see the problems involved with children and such products.