By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Increasingly, parents, school administrators and other municipal officials are raising concerns over the increase of youngsters using – and becoming addicted – to flavored tobacco products.
On July 26, the Shrewsbury Board of Health (BOH) held a public hearing to discuss proposed regulations that would restrict the sale of items such as vapes or e-cigarettes to adult only establishments such as a vape shop or tobacconist.
Attendees were overwhelming in favor of the proposed restriction. Of the roughly ten or so who spoke, only one spoke against the restriction.
D.J. Orr, operations manager of Colbea Enterprises, LLC (Seasons Corner Market), stated that it was an education issue and local businesses should not be blamed. He opposed the restrictions, he said, because one cannot educate through legislation.
State Rep. Hannah E. Kane (R-Shrewsbury) recently co-sponsored a bill that would ban flavored tobacco in Massachusetts.
“Our youth’s vaping/e-cigarette use is staggering and the Surgeon General recently called youth’s vaping an “epidemic”. This enormous increase in youth usage and the disparity between adult and youth is not by accident. This is the exact business model that the industry built to ensure that a new generation of young users would become addicted to nicotine…,” she said.
“Current marketing of flavored tobacco products aimed at young adults in my opinion is wrong. We need to make sure tobacco products such as vapes and e-cigarettes are sold appropriately in an adult setting,” said Sandy Fryc, Shrewsbury School Committee chair.
Christine Mowry, executive director of Shrewsbury Youth and Family Services, said the agency gets numerous calls from parents daily about this problem, This is not only a national epidemic but it’s also a significant problem right here in Shrewsbury, she said. Limiting access to those 18 and younger is a key strategy.
“Many parents either don’t realize that their kids are vaping or are unaware that the liquid contained in a pretty little pod has as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes, takes about 20 minutes to use and many kids report using one to two pods per day,” stated Shrewsbury Selectman Beth Casavant.
Last to speak was Tina Grosowsky, project coordinator with the Central Mass Tobacco Free Community Partnership, who said that no business had closed, in other towns, because of this restriction. Claiming that businesses would close is a tactic used in the tobacco industry’s argument against restrictions of this kind, he said.
Stephen Vigeant, the BOH chair, said the Board will accept additional written testimony up to Saturday, Aug. 3 which can be conveyed to the Health Department office at Shrewsbury Town Hall.
The Board will discuss and review options for action at its next meeting tentatively scheduled for Friday, Aug. 30.