The Board of Health’s discussion over new tobacco sale regulations will continue late into the summer.
At the board’s meeting on Thursday, July 24, members voted to send the proposed regulations to town counsel for review before voting on a version of them at their next meeting.
The board was ultimately split equally among the four members present at the meeting over whether the board should outright ban the sale of flavored tobacco products within the town.
Members Thomas Trowbridge and Frank MacMillan both supported the ban, while Larry Fixler and Joseph McCarthy were opposed. Member Edwin Pease was not present at the meeting.
Trowbridge and MacMillan argued flavored smoking products were specifically created as cheaper smoking products to target younger audiences, while older smokers tended to stick with traditional tobacco.
"The way you recruit new smokers is you have to get them started," MacMillan said. "To take this out would be a lost opportunity. On a our local level we can take a stand and say to big tobacco, we don’t want you recruiting new smokers from our children."
Federal law already prohibits flavored cigarettes, but cigars and e-cigarette cartridges, among other tobacco products, can be infused with a wide variety of fruity and sweet flavors.
Fixler and McCarthy, however, questioned the need -- and legality by proxy -- of requiring an allowed product to be pulled from local shelves.
"I don’t want to clean all those shelves with the stroke of a pen," Fixler said. "We’re just punishing the rest of the town. If any store owners are listening, it’s coming off of your shelves."
McCarthy questioned the town dictating what legal products adults should have access to, calling the regulation a "can of worms."
"I don’t like telling people what they can and cannot smoke if it’s legal products," he said.
Fixler also took issue with language in a regulation allowing the board to "reserve the right" to take action against pharmacies which do not make efforts to comply with requests they downplay the presence of cigarettes in their stores.
The regulation, created indirectly because of board discussions in 2012, asks pharmacies within town to voluntarily cover or reduce the visual presence of cigarettes within their stores. The board originally sent a letter to the six pharmacies in town requesting they do so, but only one agreed directly to take action.
Fixler said cigarettes are ultimately a legal product for sale, and that he saw what the board described as a "peer pressure" effort as intimidating language.
Other members disagreed, saying the language was consistent with the letter they’d sent to town pharmacies in the past.
"This is a deadly product," MacMillan said. "Why do you want to make it easier to get?"