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Fall River, others look to remove confusion involving new minimum tobacco, vaping age



A Fall River hearing is scheduled in hopes to avoid confusion for retailers concerning the new minimum age restrictions to purchase tobacco and vaping products.

The Board of Health hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, November 28th at 1:00 p.m. in the City Council Hearing Room at Government Center. The Board of Health is scheduled to discuss the possibility of raising the Minimum Legal Sales Age to purchase tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21, with no exemptions or exceptions.

The new state law that will go into effect in Massachusetts on December 31, 2018 raises the age to purchase from 18 but includes a ‘grandfather clause’. In that grandfather clause, anyone who turns 18 by December 30, 2018 will still be able to continue to purchase tobacco products. Anyone who turns 18 after December 30, 2018 will not be able to purchase. There has been some confusion on Fall River social media as to this hearing taking place to raise the age to 21, but that will already be taking place at the end of the year.

According to Tobacco Control Coordinator Marilyn Edge, Boards of Health in Massachusetts have the ability to remove the grandfather clause prior to December 31, 2018. Any community who does not make the change in time cannot change the age on their tobacco regulations for the next 3 years while waiting for all persons born before December 30, 2000 to reach the age of 21. They can make other changes but cannot change the age.

According to Edge, and understandably so, the grandfather clause involved in the new tobacco and vaping law has many tobacco retailers concerned that there will be much confusion and that their employees will make sales to those not eligible to purchase the products under the state law. When a customer hands the retailer an ID, it will be up to the clerk to look at the date of birth and determine ‘when’ that customer turned 18, not just ‘if’ they are 18. Edge states that the state is in the process of creating new state law signs, but they are not ready yet and may not be ready by December 31, 2018. Once those signs are available, they will be distributed to all legal tobacco retailers, free of charge.

All tobacco permit holders in Fall River have received a notice of the meeting. Many Massachusetts communities have already raised the age to 21 as of earlier this month. There are many more communities attempting to move to 21 prior to the December 30, 2018 cut off according to Edge.

In our local area, there are also public hearings scheduled on this issue in Dighton, Swansea, Taunton & Westport. In addition, Edge has been told that all the communities in the New Bedford collaborative are doing the same.

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