SOUTHWICK – The Board of Health is continuing to improve their tobacco enforcement in town for underage individuals.
In December 2018, compliance checks were completed for all 15 tobacco vendors in town and all vendors passed the successfully.
Compliance checks involve a state health official having a person under 21-years-old buy him or her cigarettes or any other tobacco product and see if the vendor allows the purchase to go through. In Southwick, it’s illegal for anyone under 21-years-old to buy any kind of tobacco products.
The Southwick Board of Health was able to participate in the compliance checks due to receiving a tobacco grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Part of the grant from the Department of Public Health included the creation of a tobacco committee called the Pioneer Valley Tobacco Coalition, which serves 27 communities throughout Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin County.
In December, Meredith O’Leary, Coordinator for the Pioneer Valley Tobacco Coalition, said that the coalition was formed for Fiscal Year 2019 and the $100,000 grant will be in effect until June 30. O’Leary noted that the Pioneer Valley Tobacco Coalition will have the opportunity to renew the grant with the Department of Public Health and can do so for up to 10 years.
According to Southwick Board of Health Director Tom FitzGerald, he will be attending a meeting this spring with fellow members of the Pioneer Valley Tobacco Coalition to discuss the latest issues with tobacco and how to get more grant money for compliance checks in the future. FitzGerald also noted that the state has been concerned with young kids vaping and using Juul’s, which is an e-cigarette that’s contained in a small smoking device that looks like a flash drive.
“That’s something we’re going to be looking at,” said FitzGerald.
FitzGerald went on to say that one critical item to address moving forward is the continuing education of tobacco retailers. A direct example of making that effort is a free tobacco retail training taking place on Wednesday. Sponsored by the Pioneer Valley Tobacco Collaborative, the training is for management and employees of retail stores that sell tobacco products in order to help educate them about tobacco regulations in Massachusetts and give them tips on how to reinforce the regulations.
There are two opportunities for the training on Wednesday: from 10 a.m. until Noon at the West Springfield Public Library and at then from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. at the East Longmeadow Library.
FitzGerald is hoping that tobacco retailers in Southwick decide to attend one of those trainings.
“It’s important for retailers to go to that,” said FitzGerald.
For any questions about the tobacco compliance checks or tobacco regulations in Southwick, contact the Board of Health at 413-569-1212.