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Mass. Smoke-Free Advocates Saw Big Gains in 2012

In 2012 communities across Massachusetts have taken strides to limit tobacco use in public places and businesses. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard takes a look at what some communities are doing to reduce smoking, and what some hope to achieve in the new year…

Recently the Berkshire town of Great Barrington updated an ordinance that extends the ban on cigarettes and tobacco products inside designated areas such as bars and restaurants to electronic cigarettes. Also known as e-cigarettes or personalized vaporizers, the small device that looks like a cigarette is smokeless, and smokers can use it inhale nicotine vapor.

Mark Pruhenski, town Health Director for Great Barrington, said in an email, “e-cigarettes are not permitted in any area where traditional smoking is prohibited simply because it is not clear at this point exactly what the health effects of inhaling the vapors or breathing the second-hand vapors of this product are.”

Jim Wilusz, Director of Public Health at Tri Town Health – a regional Health Department in Berkshire County – works with municipalities on smoking policy, including Great Barrington on the e-cigarette ban. He said because they are not recognized by the FDA as a nicotine replacement and uncertainty remains about what chemicals be used in the devices themselves, Tri Town supports communities efforts to prohibit their use in public.

Early this year the Massachusetts Public Health Council sent a letter Governor Deval Patrick’s administration requesting a consideration of a statewide ban on the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.  Several cities and towns across the Commonwealth have put in place their own policies – including some in Boston, Springfield, and other larger communities.

In 2012 Tri Town Health also worked with other Berkshire communities including Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge, and Pittsfield, to prohibit the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. Jim Wilusz again…

Although a bill failed to pass through the legislature that would put in place a statewide ban, Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, hopes that in the next legislative session beginning in January – that lawmakers will again take up discussion of prohibiting the sale of tobacco products where individuals go to seek health care.

Also in 2012, Pyramid Management, which owns shopping malls in the region, including the Berkshire Mall in Lanesboro, Massachusetts and Crossgates Mall in Albany, NY declared themselves tobacco free last spring.

And recently in Connecticut, it was reported that State Representative Henry Genga, an East Hartford Democrat, would seek to reintroduce legislation that would prevent smoking in automobiles containing children. The Representative was not available for comment in time for broadcast.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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