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Local convenience stores weigh in on Tobacco 21 law

 By Christopher Roberson

 

As of Dec. 31, the legal age to purchase tobacco products in Lynnfield will be 21 rather than 18.

Anu Kul of Centre Market said that while “50-80” percent of his customers who purchase tobacco are under 21, the store’s weekly loss is not expected to exceed $50. “In Lynnfield, not that many people smoke,” he said.

According to the Massachusetts Boards of Health, Lynnfield’s Adult Smoking Rate was 9.1 percent between 2011 and 2015.

However, Kul said legislators still made the right choice to increase the age to 21. “Some cities really need it,” he said.

Bavish Patel of Donovan’s Liquor Store said he does not have many customers under 21 who come in to buy tobacco; therefore, he is not anticipating a major financial impact. Patel said he was working in Melrose four years ago when the minimum age was raised from 18 to 21, adding that he favored the change. He said it is good that the state is requiring every municipality to increase the age requirement.

Like Kul and Patel, Tofayel Ahmed of Old Towne Market said he also does not expect a “big difference” in sales, as many teenagers are already purchasing tobacco from his store using fake identification. “That’s been a problem,” he said, adding that he does not have an identification scanner.

In addition to using fake forms of identification while they are underage, Ahmed said, teenagers do not think twice about continuing to purchase tobacco once they turn 18.

The Tobacco 21 bill was introduced by State Sen. Jason Lewis and 28 other legislators on Jan. 23, 2017. It was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker on July 27 of this year.

According to tobacco21.org, Needham was the first community in the state to increase the tobacco age in 2005. During the past 13 years, 178 cities and towns have followed the Tobacco 21 movement. Those municipalities represent 70 percent of the state’s population. However, as of Aug. 1, Lynnfield was still one of 173 communities allowing 18-year-olds to buy tobacco.

Although the number of high school smokers in Massachusetts is “well below” the national average, there are still approximately 103,000 teenagers who are under 18 who will “eventually die early due to smoking.” In addition, 2,500 teenagers begin using tobacco every year in the Bay State.

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