Williamstown to ban cigarettes for people under 21

WLLIAMSTOWN, Mass. (NEWS10) – In an effort to reduce and prevent adolescent smoking, the Massachusetts Board of Health voted to raise the legal buying age to 21-years old.

The new policy will be implemented September 1.

The law went into effect in New York City in 2014. Boston may also increase the minimum age. Now Williamstown is set to become the first in the Berkshires to enact such a policy.

Almost 70 other towns within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have also raised the age to 21.

“I think kids will find a way to smoke if they want to,” resident Carlene Madigan said.

“I think anything that discourages kids from smoking wound be advantageous,” Bob Scott, of North Adams, said. “Though I think 21 is a little bit old. I think people have got their maturity to make their own decisions.”

Danny Main said he started smoking at 18.

“It’s pretty easy to get them if you know people who are willing to buy them for people,” he said.

But Main said he wants to quit smoking.

“It may hurt the businesses, but it’s more of an incentive for little kids not to smoke at a certain age,” he said. “And me, I’m a smoker, and I’d prefer not to smoke. It may be a good thing in the end.”

One employee of a business that sells cigarettes in Williamstown said he doesn’t think it will cripple business because people already go the four miles to Vermont where cigarettes are cheaper.

Wendy Penner is the director of Prevention Programs at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

“For people who say this doesn’t really make a difference, you can just drive to the next town,” she said. “We have some compelling data to show that it does.”

Penner said Needham, Mass. voted to raise the age to 21 in 2005. By 2010, she said research showed the decline in youth smoking there was nearly triple its neighbors.

According to the Williamstown Board of Health, there are five or fewer places that sell tobacco, and it counts for less than 1.5 percent of the town’s revenue.

The age increase also adheres to e-cigarettes.

There is also talk of a Berkshire County-wide band, and the Williamstown Board felt it had to take the first step. Enforcement falls under the board of health.

Also in Berkshire County, Lanesborough set an effective date of 2018.

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