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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Boston Public Health Commission suggests strict smoking regulations

    Boston may implement one of the nation's most restrictive smoking bans as early as next year, if the city adopts the new restrictions on smoking approved last month by its health agency.
    The plan has the potential to knock out all hookah bars in Beantown within five years.
    The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) on Sept. 4 gave an initial endorsement to restrictions on the use and sale of tobacco within city limits. The regulations also target smoking bars, which, if the policy goes through, would be required to close or significantly alter their operations within five years.
    The BPHC's ruling would restrict where people can smoke in public, adding to a set of limitations implemented in 2003 that banned smoking in restaurants and bars. The new constraints would almost universally prohibit smoking in hotel rooms, cigar and hookah bars and all workplaces — including any outside areas adjacent to such locations. The BPHC said the plan aims to make workplaces healthier.
    "What we focus on is the protection of workers," Roger Swartz, director of the BPHC's Community Initiatives Borough, told the Daily. "We've been successful in reducing the prevalence of tobacco use. We are [now] exploring what might be some options to reducing access to tobacco."
    No new smoking permits would be issued to businesses, and those that are being retained would be allowed to expire within the five years after final approval, Swartz said.
    Cigar Masters, a cigar café and lounge on Boylston Street, would be significantly impacted by the proposed rules.
    Founder and co-owner Brandon Salomon told the Daily he was concerned about the potential ban's effect on his business. For an establishment to qualify as a smoking bar, 60 percent of its sales must consist of tobacco products.
    If the regulations are implemented, Cigar Masters will have to become a club with private membership in order to continue its operations, Salomon said. He explained that the BPHC's stated goal of protecting workers was not relevant to his employees, many of whom are cigar aficionados themselves.
    "My employees all sign waivers," Salomon said. "They all love working here."
    Many hotels, which are also affected by the proposed changes, have been "taking a hit" recently as they become increasingly smoke-free, said Jerry Good, a concierge at the Sheraton Boston Hotel.
    Good said the Sheraton Hotel has made all of its rooms non-smoking in the last three to six months. Since then, he has personally noticed a shift in European clientele to the Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Towers, an establishment that still allows smoking.
    The other major regulation change supported by the BPHC places limitations on where tobacco can be sold within city limits, with the goal of decreasing tobacco use among youths.
    Tobacco sales would be outlawed at retailers on college campuses and at health-care institutions, including pharmacies. Swartz said that this change is meant to limit access in general and to send a message supporting healthy behavior.
    The regulation also aims specifically to ban the sale of blunt wraps, inexpensive tobacco-rolling papers commonly used to smoke marijuana. In its ruling, the commission claimed that the wraps are "heavily marketed to the youth and often used as drug paraphernalia."
    Freshman Andrew Brinson said he has been to several hookah bars in Boston. "If I'm going to a shisha bar, it's just about a hobby," Brinson said, using a common term for hookah. "When I go in, I'm forfeiting my right to avoid a non-smoking environment."
    Brinson also noted that he does not disagree with the 2003 limitations on smoking. In terms of blunt wraps, Brinson said he understands why they have been targeted, as he believes they are primarily used as drug paraphernalia.
    Freshman Tatyana Korshunova said that she opposed extending the city's ban to include smoking establishments.
    "I do understand that smoke can affect a non-smoking section [at a restaurant], but a hookah bar is designed for that kind of activity," she said.
    The regulations would increase the fine for a first-time violation from $100 to $200. Second-time violations would increase from $500 to $700.
    With its ruling, the BPHC opened a 60-day period for hearing public comments and has already scheduled two public hearings.


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