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SOMERVILLE (WBZ-AM) -- Some major restrictions on tobacco products have just been voted in in Somerville.
Doug Kress, Somerville's Director of Health and Human Services, told WBZ NewsRadio's Shari Small that, as of April 1, 2019, the sale of electronic and menthol cigarettes will be restricted to those aged 21 and above--and will only be sold in adult-only tobacco stores.
"It's not just about the purchasing power, but also the visibility of these products," Kress said. "We want to move that and put that a little bit more difficult for our young people today, and put it into these tobacco retail stores, which are the 21+ stores."
The regulations, voted in last Thursday, come on the heels of a Surgeon General warning that teen vaping is the fastest-growing youth abuse epidemic on recent record.
"We're in an epidemic right now," Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone told WBZ NewsRadio's Josh Binswanger Wednesday. "Youth access to electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-cigarettes are rising at a rapid rate, and we need to take significant action, I would say at every level, but certainly at the local level to protect our youth and their development, and their overall health and well-being."
A new Massachusetts state law bumping up the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 kicks in on December 31, but Somerville already raised the tobacco-purchasing age to 21 back in 2015. The city's new local law goes a step further, removing e-cigarettes, vaping devices, and menthol and flavored cigarettes from grocery and convenience store settings. Those products will only be sold in designated tobacco stores, where you must be 21 just to enter the doors.
The new Massachusetts law doesn't apply to anyone already 18 by the date it takes effect, but that grandfather clause will not be honored in Somerville.
WBZ's Josh Binswanger and Shari Small contributed to this report.
Hear the full interview with Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone: