Councilor cuts off debate on cigarette sales ban

WORCESTER — A city councilor has temporarily put the brakes on a proposal to ban the sale of tobacco products by local health care providers, including drugstores and colleges.

Councilor-at-Large Michael J. Germain tonight exercised his right under the City Council’s rules to hold for one week amendments to the city’s tobacco control ordinance that have been recommended by City Manager Michael V. O’Brien.

In addition to banning the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products at pharmacies and colleges, the amendments would prohibit advertising tobacco products in areas of the city where they could be viewed from public streets, parks, schools and colleges.

Also, the amendments would ban the sale of so-called “blunt wraps,” rolling papers that are usually made from tobacco leaves; and would include pharmacy chains among local health care facilities required to create a 50-foot no-smoking buffer zone in front of their main entrance

By exercising his “personal privilege” on the item, Mr. Germain cut off council discussion on the item until its next meeting.

In an interview, Mr. Germain said his father died at age 47, and said his death was probably smoking-related because he was smoking up to three packs of cigarettes a day up until the day he died.

Having witnessed firsthand the health risks associated with smoking, Mr. Germain said, one would think he would be very supportive of such a ban. But he said he does not believe city government has any business legislating where legal tobacco products can and cannot be sold.

He said he also feels the amendments before the council are “overreaching.” He said while he could support the provision banning blunt wraps, he has trouble with other provisions, especially the one banning the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in pharmacies.

District 2 Councilor Philip P. Palmieri, chairman of the council’s Public Health and Human Services Committee and an advocate of the stronger tobacco regulations, said he believes “outside influences” are trying to block the ordinance.

He said no councilors had previously expressed any reservations about the proposals when they were discussed by his committee, or when the council asked the city administration months ago to draft the amendments brought forward by the city manager.

“Not one councilor said anything against this before,” Mr. Palmieri said in an interview. “It certainly appeared that we had the votes before to get this done, but something happened today. Is it a surprise to me? No. This is a health issue, not a political issue.”

But Mr. Germain said his position is not politically motivated, nor has he been pressured by anyone to block the tougher regulations. He said he simply feels that “government should not be getting in the middle of this.”

Because the council is schedule to meet in joint session with the School Committee next week, it’s uncertain whether the tobacco control amendments will
be taken up at that meeting or the week after that.


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