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Walpole Health Board divided on tobacco age issue

By Veronica Hamlett

Wicked Local Walpole

Posted Oct 25, 2012 @ 04:38 PM


The Board of Health will consider raising the local age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21 years old after hearing a local pediatrician’s impassioned plea.

The board voted unanimously to open up Walpole’s tobacco regulations for change and will hold a public hearing on Jan. 8 before they make any decisions.

Though they agreed to get public input first, the board is divided on the issue. Chairman Bill Morris already gave his support to Dr. Lester Hartman, the Westwood physician who approached the board earlier this month.

Hartman is asking all Boston suburbs to consider raising the age from 18 to 21 to protect children from smoking’s harmful effects. Though they’re adults legally, 18-year-olds are still children in that their brains and bodies are still developing.

Morris agreed with Hartman’s case.

Board members Lisa Procaccini and Claire Wolfram think 18-year-olds should still be allowed to purchase tobacco.

“It’s not that I think they should be smoking. I just think, they’re adults,” Procaccini said. “They’re going to smoke if they want to smoke. That law isn’t going to change that.”

Wolfram didn’t see how upping the age in Walpole would reduce teen smoking, another reason Hartman is pushing for 21-year-olds to be able to buy cigarettes.

“I don’t think we should bother with this,” Wolfram said.

Board member Carol Johnson indicated she would support increasing the age, while fellow board member Richard Bringhurst said he had mixed feelings on the issue.

“I’m obviously opposed to anything that stunts growth,” said Bringhurst, also a doctor. “I think I am concerned about the economic impact on small businesses.”

The Board of Health will have the final say on changing the age. In 2010, the board voted to ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco in pharmacies.

So far, only two towns have upped the allowable age. Needham first raised it to 21 and then amended it to 19. In July, Belmont raised their age to 19.

Hartman is hoping for a domino effect amongst Boston suburbs that will force the state to take notice

Read more: Walpole Health Board divided on tobacco age issue – Walpole, MA – Wicked Local Walpole

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