Metro, Newton

Newton Passes New Vape Sale Regulations

Vape sales in Newton are being limited to the two adult-only vape shops in the city: Vape Daddy’s and Garden City Vape.

The Health and Human Services Department of the City of Newton passed a regulation on Oct. 16, limiting the sale of e-cigarettes to two adult-only retail tobacco stores or retail nicotine delivery product stores. After Governor Charlie Baker’s Sept. 24 statewide-ban on vaping products expires on Jan. 25, 2020, only these two stores will be permitted to distribute said products.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—which was cited in the statement of the regulation—18.1 percent of current smokers aged younger than 18 years reported that they usually directly purchased their cigarettes from stores or gas stations, and among 11th grade males this rate was nearly 30 percent. 

The Department of Health and Human Services can pass regulations on its own under the circumstances that the regulations address important public health issues, which was the case for this regulation, according to Deborah Youngblood, the commissioner of the department.

The department did not pass the regulation “in isolation,” as it spoke extensively with both tobacco control personnel on the state level, as well as the law department and the executive office of the city, she said. Youngblood said that the department also spoke with the sellers, who will be directly affected by the regulation.

“We did a public listening session so that we could hear from the community and get feedback, and [we] sent a lot of information out to retailers specifically.” Youngblood said. “So that they could share their thoughts with us.”

Baker’s ban had no bearing on the city’s decision, said Youngblood. According to her, the city worked on the regulation long before the statewide ban, intending to give sellers a two-month window to adapt, as the regulation will go into effect on Dec. 16, 2019. The governor’s order, however, led to a ban that was earlier than the city originally planned.

“We were expecting that all of our stores would be currently selling when we passed the new regulations,” Youngblood said. “Therefore we wanted to give them two months to sell down their products and stop any future ordering to try to minimize the financial impact on them. But obviously, the governor’s emergency orders sort of superseded us, and we weren’t able to help our retailers out that way. ”

When asked about how the city weighed between public health risks and the possible negative effects on local businesses, Youngblood said that the decision was difficult and that the city also considered more rigid regulations than the ones that were passed. She said that the city eventually passed the regulations because of the public health issues caused by e-cigarettes. 

“We felt like we were already playing catch up that all across the country got caught a bit off guard by this e-cigarette rise, and we really needed to make some significant changes,” Youngblood said. “I certainly felt that was that outweighed, what, [as] I understood, was going to be a hardship for some of our small retailers.”

David Bershad, an owner of Vape Daddy’s, is in favor of the restriction. He had to close his store since the Massachusetts vape ban took effect in September. Two of his locations, Braintree and Norwood, have been permanently shut down. The original location was in Newton, and he plans to reopen it next month to sell everything except vape products until the vape ban is lifted in January. When it reopens and the restriction is in effect in Newton, his store will be one of two in the city permitted to sell vape products.

His store, which he said is very strict with minors and doesn’t push adults to buy products if they don’t need them, has the expertise to guide people in the right direction unlike convenience stores. Convenience stores sell thousands of other products, and employees aren’t trained in the same way as vape store employees, he said.

“There’s no real cessation to it,” Bershad said. “They just sell it to you, and if you have questions, good luck.” 

Newton convenience store owners who will now be prohibited from selling vape products could not be reached for comment.

Featured Image by Timmy Facciola / Heights Editor

November 3, 2019