Selectmen hear complaint against possible flavored tobacco ban

By Andrea Ray | Sep 05, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray Dennis Lane of the Coalition for Responsible Retailing speaks to Marion's Board of Selectmen on August 5.

Marion — Treat alcohol and tobacco the same way, says one local coalition of alcohol and liquor retailers, or don't sell it at all.

Dennis Lane, a member of the Coalition for Responsible Retailing, visited the Marion Selectmen at their September 5 meeting to discuss a ban being considered by the Marion Board of Health, which would ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco in Marion.

The Coalition for Responsible Retailing is made up of licensed cigarette retailers throughout Massachusetts, who, according to their website, are "committed to keeping tobacco out of the hands of minors."

Lane said that he was hoping to speak to the Board of Health regarding the ban consideration, but had not been able to get near them. He clarified knew the Selectmen would be unable to help him reach the Board of Health, who like the Selectmen are elected officials. "We don't have any control over them," Selectmen Jody Dickerson told him.

"I know and I understand," Lane replied. "The Board of Selectmen are elected to represent fiscal and social interests in town, so I'd like you to hear this anyway."

Lane argued that a potential ban on menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco might harm local businesses. "Marion has a 100 percent compliance rate with tobacco stings done by the federal government," he explained. "That's rare. Marion needs to trust their local businesses to be compliant and responsible."

He added that the ban of flavored tobacco should be treated the same way as sales of flavored alcohol. "Banning flavored tobacco doesn't make sense," he said.

Lane went on to note that it's illegal for a retailer to sell tobacco to someone under the age 21, but it was not illegal for someone under the age of 21 to possess said tobacco, whereas possession of alcohol under age 21 is illegal.

"I guess what I'm asking is that tobacco and alcohol be treated equally," he explained. "Stores should be able to sell flavored tobacco the same way they can sell a bottle of flavored alcohol. If you really want to ban tobacco, ban it all."

"But," he added, "trust your retailers. I've been in the business for 43 years. We don't want tobacco to reach anyone under 18. If a retailer fails a sting, they should be fined or have their license to sell revoked. But retailers are the gatekeepers."

"If the retailers have a good reputation," he added, referring to Marion's 100 percent success rate in sting, "trust them to do their job and keep tobacco and alcohol away from children."

The Board of Selectmen listened to the presentation, and thanked Lane for taking time to visit them. "I would encourage you to get on the agenda of the Marion Board of Health as soon as possible," Dickerson told him.


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