Stores that sell cigarettes – both traditional tobacco cigarettes and the new electronic cigarettes – will be licensed, under an ordinance approved by the Montgomery Township Board of Health last week.
The new licensing law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will help township officials keep tabs on the stores in an effort to keep tobacco products and electronic cigarettes and related devices out of the hands of young people.
The ordinance covers electronic smoking devices, such as e-cigarettes and the liquids and powders associated with them, as well as traditional tobacco products – cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco and snuff.
A new state law took effect Nov. 1 that raised the minimum age to buy tobacco and related products from 19 years old to 21 years old. Would-be purchasers are required to show a photo ID that also lists their birth date.
The ordinance drew support from several of the dozen or so attendees at the Nov. 29 public hearing in front of the Montgomery Township Board of Health.
Township resident Paul Blodgett, who is a former U.S. Navy officer, said the township has a responsibility to enforce the new law to keep the products out of young people’s hands.
Blodgett said that when he was a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy, there was a common expression – “You don’t get what you expect. You get what you inspect.” If stores are left to self-enforce, Blodgett said, “it may not happen.” Everyone needs to be held accountable.
Blodgett said he observed many young sailors using tobacco products which damaged their lungs, cutting short their careers in the U.S. Navy.
Stephanie Lachenauer, who teaches at the Upper Middle School, said two of her classes discussed the issue. The students are concerned about e-cigarettes, she said, and they are aware that they are being targeted by tobacco companies in their advertising campaigns.
Christine Grossmann, a substance abuse counselor at Montgomery High School, presented a letter of support for the ordinance to the Board of Health from Superintendent of Schools Nancy Gartenberg, who could not attend the meeting.
Gartenberg wrote that e-smoking is on the rise, especially with under-aged persons despite the new age-of-sale enforcement efforts.
“As you can imagine, the use of these devices by school-age children poses a significant challenge for our school staff and their parents, making it even more difficult to keep kids safe and substance-free,” she wrote.
“This ordinance is necessary, as this area is not well regulated,” Gartenberg wrote, adding that the ordinance will protect young people and provide for greater accountability by stores that sell those products.
The new ordinance, as approved by the Board of Health, sets the initial license fee at $600. The fee drops to $300 at the annual renewal. Itinerant businesses or vendors may not purchase a license to sell electronic smoking devices.
Stores that violate the ordinance can be fined $250 for the first offense, and $500 for the second offense. The third and subsequent offenses carry a fine of $1,000. In addition, the store’s license may be revoked.