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Pittsfield Board of Health OKs Updated Tobacco Ordinance
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
07:30AM / Sunday, January 08, 2023
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health has concluded its seven-month process of updating the city's tobacco ordinance.

"We should be very happy about that," Chair Bobbie Orsi said.

The document was unanimously approved on Wednesday after receiving some finishing touches in November. No public comment was generated in response to the public hearing.

The ordinance had last been amended in 2019 before Gov. Charlie Baker signed an Act Modernizing Tobacco Control, which imposed new restrictions on the sale of nicotine vaping, flavored vaping, and tobacco products.

Changes effective on April 1 include a clarified definition for blunt wraps, a raised minimum price requirement for cigars, and violations that incorporate state law.

A blunt wrap is newly defined as "any product wholly or in part from a tobacco product, manufactured or packaged with loose and removable leaves or section of a leaf, or as a hollow tube, that may be used by the consumer to wrap or contain loose tobacco or other fillers."

It also considers tobacco leaf kits or roll-your-own packages as blunt wraps.

"The major changes that we did was we made an update to definitions such as the blunt wraps. We wanted to make sure it gives a very descriptive definition of that. We did also discuss the fine structure to align with the state," Director of Public Health Andy Cambi explained.

"We did not reduce the permit cap, we kept that normal and I think the last change that we made in November was that we wanted to talk about the violations where if they were issued a violation for us to have that discretion for up to 30 days, no less than one business day."

There was a previous discussion about explicitly banning smoking bars but BOH members felt that the ordinance already bans them, as smoking is not prohibited in any bars within city bounds.

Tri-Town Health Department Director James Wilusz commended the board and health department staff for making the regulations more streamlined for the public. Wilusz has assisted the panel with the effort, as his department has been administering a tobacco awareness program since 1994.

"Having one set of regulations that people can understand and follow is a service to the community and the board," he said.

Wilusz recommended a summary notification, putting up signs, and sending out a cover letter to retailers to let them know that the minimum pricing for packaged cigars has gone up.

Cigar pricing and packaging regulations were updated to raise the minimum price for a cigar by 40 cents to $2.90 and the minimum price for two or more cigars from $5 to $5.80.

"There's not many changes in this regulation that really affects the retailers other than the small nominal adjustment for the consumer price index so I think 60 days is reasonable," he said in regard to the implementation period.

"The caveat understanding is that if there's a violation of state law that still remains in effect even [though] you're pushing 60 days out. You're really extending the local policy changes 60 days out."

He added that the aim is to have compliance and not to have people feel like they weren't aware of the upcoming changes.

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