Gloucester passes flavored tobacco ban with youth support


Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids

Some of the many products included in Gloucester’s flavored tobacco ban

CAROLINE ENOS, Staff Writer, Editor

As of May 1st, 2018, the sale of all flavored tobacco products- excluding menthol and mint- is banned in any Gloucester store that does not exclusively sell tobacco or smoking products.

“It was important that the flavor ban was passed because the use of flavored tobacco products is such a prominent issue at GHS,” said Healthy Gloucester Collaborative member Rosie Favazza, who is a part of the Collaborative’s Gloucester Youth Council and a senior at GHS. “Not only are students smoking e-cigarettes in the bathrooms, but also in the halls and in class when the teacher isn’t looking.”

Gloucester joins 101 other Massachusetts cities and towns who have already adopted the ban, which also states that any person under 21 cannot enter the store even if with someone over the age limit.

The Board of Health passed the ban Thursday night with only Vice-Chairperson Robert Harris voting opposed.  Harris voiced concern to the board over how the ban will affect the margins of local stores, but agreed that these products were a threat to youth.

Diane Knight, Director of the Northeast Tobacco-Free Community Partnership, stressed to the board that in the towns and cities where this ban has already passed, no stores who sold flavor tobacco products have closed as a result of the ban.

According to Knight, Gloucester has done well in the last two compliance checks over the past year. In these compliance checks, the state sends trained youth into stores to try to buy tobacco products in order to track if tobacco carriers are selling to youth illegally.

At least one store will have to change its business plan to accommodate the ban. Sunny’s Variety on Railroad Ave sells flavored tobacco products, newspapers, snacks, and other merchandise, and will have to choose between carrying only flavored tobacco products, or only other merchandise.

The Gloucester Youth Council argued that taking food and other products youth regularly buy out of these stores would give youth no reason to go into them at all- thus diminishing their exposure to flavored tobacco.

The owner of Sunny’s Variety spoke during the hearing, and the owner of Boston Smoke Shop on Washington street was in attendance. However, neither disputed the claims made by Knight and the youth, and commended the regulation already in place that prohibits the entrance of youth under 21 into their stores.

But as the GYC presented to the board during a public hearing before the vote on the ban, preventing the illegal sale of tobacco products to youth is not the only reason for the ban’s implementation.

By making more than 8,000 flavors- like grape, strawberry, and chocolate- pricing them at only a few dollars, and putting their colorful and appealing packages at a child’s eye level or next to candy, Big Tobacco is actively trying to widen its margins through today’s youth,” said the GYC in their presentation to the board, and in their letter to the editor published in The Gillnetter and Gloucester Daily Times.

More than 89 percent of Massachusetts youth do not smoke cigarettes, and this number continues to rise. To make up for this loss, Big Tobacco companies create new ways to hook youth to their products.

As recounted by the GYC, “68 percent of GHS students reported that their first tobacco product was flavored. 60 percent of students who smoke flavored tobacco products said they would not use or were not sure if they would use tobacco products if they were not flavored.”

Flavored tobacco products- like JUULs and e-cigarettes- are designed by Big Tobacco to resemble pens, flash drives, and everyday items so that adults cannot identify them. The GYC stressed that this is not acceptable. 

“Big tobacco targets youth through specific tactics aimed at them,” said Favazza. “I don’t want Big Tobacco to make victims out of the youths in my community.”