Deerfield board mulls upping fines for selling tobacco to minors
|Published: 11-03-2023 3:29 PM
DEERFIELD — Following three separate tobacco sales violations, the Selectboard is considering upping the town’s fines to match state regulations in hopes of further deterring sales to minors.
Pioneer Valley Tobacco Coalition Coordinator Merridith O’Leary said in a letter to the board that three Deerfield stores sold cigarettes to a minor when the coalition was conducting youth compliance checks on Oct. 17. O’Leary cited the Cumberland Farms on Elm Street, The Spirit Shoppe on South Main Street and the Neighbors gas station on Conway Road. It was all three stores’ first violation, which entails a $100 fine.
In response, the Selectboard/Board of Health is considering upping its fines, which haven’t been updated since 2017, to match the state’s penalties. Chair Carolyn Shores Ness said the board considered upping the fines in 2020, but felt the state’s regulations were too steep at the time.
“I think we need to think about it some more,” she said about updating their regulations now, adding that a place like The Spirit Shoppe also sells alcohol. “I’m very disgusted this is happening.”
Deerfield’s current regulations dictate there is a $100 fine upon the first offense, a $200 fine and a seven-day license suspension for a second offense, and a $300 fine and a 30-day suspension for a third offense. A fourth offense within two years would trigger a public hearing, which could then allow the town to permanently revoke that business’ tobacco sales permit.
Assistant Health Agent Valerie Bird explained the state’s regulations, by comparison, dictate there is a $1,000 fine and a three-day license suspension for a first offense, a $2,000 fine and a seven-day suspension for a second offense, and a $5,000 fine and a 30-day suspension for a third offense.
Bird said increasing fines, as well as informing businesses of the penalties, would deter them from committing violations in the future.
“If they know it, they won’t do it,” Bird said.
Board member Tim Hilchey said adopting the state’s level of fines would be a good step toward ensuring retailers don’t sell tobacco or nicotine to minors. He added that he always has to show his ID when he’s purchasing something like a bottle of wine, so there’s no excuse as to why businesses still sell a product to a minor who doesn’t present an ID.
“If the state thinks the violation structure is good, they’re trying to promote public health,” he said, adding it’s one thing to get tricked by a fake ID, but selling tobacco to someone without an ID is inexcusable. “I agree with you Valerie, $1,000 is going to wake a lot of people up.”
The board will take up the matter at a future meeting.
Chris Larabee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.