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Tobacco sales: Yarmouth health board considers requiring sellers to be 2,000 feet apart

By Rasheek Tabassum Mujib, Cape Cod Times,


Vishal Shukla, the owner of the Station Avenue convenience store in South Yarmouth, has been in business for more than 20 years. As someone who sells tobacco products, Shukla regularly attends Yarmouth Board of Health meetings to keep up with municipal regulations that could affect his business.

At Monday's board meeting, the board discussed — but did not act on — a proposed new regulation designed to prevent stores that sell tobacco products from bunching up in a particular area. The draft regulation prohibits new businesses that plan to sell tobacco from locating within 2,000 feet of an existing tobacco seller.

"This regulation is being discussed to eliminate saturation of tobacco permits in specific geographic areas, it's about geographic spacing," said Yarmouth Health Director Jay Gardiner in a phone interview.

This is the first time a Cape Cod town has considered such a regulation.

“It's a density strategy to space out tobacco retailers in a given community,” said Bob Collett, director of the Cape Cod Regional Tobacco Control Program.

According to Collett, the board could set any distance it wants under the draft regulation.

What is the goal of requiring tobacco sellers to be 2,000 feet apart?

According to Gardiner, the goal is to not have one store selling tobacco and another selling it two doors down.

"The Yarmouth Board of Health hasn't looked at the tobacco rating regulations since 2018, so it was a timely discussion for the board and this is just part of several regulations the board is looking into," said Gardiner.

Yarmouth is known for instituting strict tobacco regulations.

Together with Mashpee and Edgartown, Yarmouth has the toughest tobacco laws of any town on the Cape and Islands. In 2014, the town adopted the ban on the sale of flavored tobacco. It also prohibits the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, and has capped the number of tobacco licenses available for retail stores. Yarmouth also increased the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21 several years before the state adopted the change.

According to Collett, the Yarmouth health board has been very progressive and aggressive in its approach to tobacco sales.

Tobacco still number one cause of illness and death in United States

“Tobacco is still the number one cause of illness and death in the United States and the board is doing their due diligence to try to protect the public,” said Collett.

Shukla is satisfied with the town’s regulations regarding tobacco sales.

The board members are "thinking about the health aspect and the board puts the rules and regulations based on that concern,” he said.

As long as the board keeps businesses in the loop when preparing its regulations, Shukla believes retailers should comply.

“Whatever decision they make, they know better, they know what they're doing and as long as they let us participate in the meeting and look over the plans and then finalize everything, everyone should be OK with it,” he said.

Shukla believes in the uniformity of regulations on the Cape.

“If one town has a certain regulation, another town doesn't, it would definitely hurt the businesses,” he said. “If they do everything at the same time, that would be more helpful to all the retailers.”

The board plans to further discuss the regulations.

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