Eight Revere businesses have been fined for selling tobacco products to minors. Under a new state law, the businesses have been fined $1,000 and will have their tobacco sales licenses suspended for three days later in May. The fines and suspensions are the new penalties for a first offense for selling to minors. The eight businesses that were found to sell to minors without asking for an ID by the Six City Tobacco Initiative are Shirley Ave. Variety at 65 Shirley Ave., Oak Island Convenience at 831 North Shore Rd., Convenience Mart at 270 Broadway, GasCo at 520 Broadway, Battambang Market at 120 Shirley Ave., ABC at 170 Revere St., Anthony’s Supermarket at 760 Broadway, and Joe’s Kwik Mart at 41 Lee Burbank Hwy.
“Recently, I did a compliance check in Revere using a 17-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy, and there were several violations found at the time where the young person, especially the boy, was not asked for any identification,” said Bonny Carroll, director of the grant-funded Six City Tobacco Initiative.
Carroll said the young people who take part in the tobacco operations are trained, and not allowed to lie about their age or if they have an ID if they are asked.
Prior to the new state law, the maximum fine faced by retailers for selling tobacco to underage customers was $300. “Most retailers had gotten used to that,” said Carroll.
Under the new law, the fines are much heftier, starting with the $1,000 and three-day suspension for first offenses. Second violations carry a $2,000 fine and a seven-day suspension and third violations carry a $5,000 fine and a 30-day suspension.
Battambang Market and GasCo unsuccessfully appealed their fines at the Thursday, April 28 meeting of the Board of Health.
“The Board of Health is responsible under the new law to uphold the state’s decision on this and not lower the amount of the fine or the suspension,” said Carroll. “That means if the retailer can provide evidence that a protocol was not done correctly by me or my staff, then there would be a case for negotiating the lowering of the fine and/or the suspension. But unless that is the case, then the board is charged by the state to uphold that cease and desist order with that amount of the fine.”
Board of Health Chair Drew Bunker said he understood that the fines are fairly severe for small businesses. “Obviously, it is a very hefty fine and we don’t want anyone to have to pay that or deal with that, but we are forced by the law in terms of the fine, and it’s frustrating, because obviously we understand you are all business owners and it is a difficult time,” said Bunker. “My worry is that if we don’t follow this law, then we can get in trouble with the District Attorney’s Office.”
Lauren Buck, the city’s public health director, said there is some reasoning for the seemingly punitive fines. “From a healthcare perspective, the rationale behind it is there are punitive or harsh laws because we want to prevent children and youth from picking up smoking because we know how harmful it is,” said Buck. “There is a statistic from the American Lung Association that says that every day, almost 2,500 children under 18 try their first cigarette, and more than 400 of them will become new, regular daily smokers, and half of them will die from smoking. That’s the ‘why’ behind the sometimes punitive-feeling laws.”