Essex, Mass. Raises Tobacco Purchase Age, Passes Additional Tobacco Regulations

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A number of new regulations regarding the sale of tobacco products will go into effect this summer in Essex, Mass., as the town’s board of health approved several changes, including an increase to the minimum age to purchase tobacco products.

As of Aug. 1, 2016, the new minimum age to purchase tobacco products will go from 18-years-old to 21-years-old, something that brings the town inline with more than 100 municipalities in the state, and could soon be the statewide minimum age if a bill in the Massachusetts legislature passes.

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The minimum purchase price of cigars has been set at $2.50, though the change is geared to prevent the sale of cheap, machine made cigars more than premium handmade cigars. A package of two or more cigars must now sell for at least $5. While the town doesn’t have any premium cigar retailers, if it did they would now be subject to a requirement that their humidors be locked, as all self-service displays–including walk-in humidors–will be prohibited.

Tobacco companies are no longer allowed to distribute free samples or coupons, or use multi-pack discounts as a sales incentive, meaning that getting free cigars with a box purchase at an event will be a thing of the past.

Among the other changes passed by the board is a ban on the the sale of flavored tobacco products except in smoking bars and retail tobacco shops. The sale of tobacco products in educational and health care institutions is also now prohibited, as is the sale of blunt wraps anywhere within the town.

Finally, a cap of four tobacco sales permits has been put in place, which is the number of current permits in existence. The change means that no additional tobacco retailers will be licensed in the town. Permits are also not transferable, so it a tobacco retailer sells his business, the new owner must apply for a permit.

Also of interest to retailers is a change in the town’s penalty schedule; previously Essex was on a 24-month timeline for tracking violations, and that has been increased to track and issue penalties for violations on a 36-month timeline.

Violators of any of the changes will face fines starting at $100, while a second violation within the new 36-month timeline gets a $200 fine and suspension of the retailer’s tobacco sales permit for seven days. A third violation will cost $300 and a 30-day suspension, while a fourth violation–or “repeated, egregious violations” within a three-year period could result in the revocation of a retailer’s permit to sell tobacco.

Essex is located approximately 26 miles north of Boston, with an estimated population of 3,500 people.

This story was updated with information about the fines shortly after it was published.

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Patrick Lagreid
About the author

I strive to capture the essence of a cigar and the people behind them in my work – every cigar you light up is the culmination of the work of countless people and often represents generations of struggle and stories. For me, it’s about so much more than the cigar – it’s about the story behind it, the experience of enjoying the work of artisans and the way that a good cigar can bring people together. In addition to my work with halfwheel, I’m the public address announcer for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks during spring training, as well as for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League, the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and the Arizona Rattlers of the Indoor Football League. I also work in a number of roles for MLB.com, plus I'm a voice over artist. I previously covered the Phoenix and national cigar scene for Examiner.com, and was an editor for Cigar Snob magazine.

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