By the new year, you will have to be at least 21 years old to buy tobacco products in Bourne.

The Bourne Board of Health voted unanimously Wednesday night, October 24, to up the minimum age from 18. The change takes effect December 28.

State regulations have called for a steady increase in the age limit for tobacco purchases over the next several years. The state has recommended raising the age to 19 in 2019; 20 the following year; and finally 21 in 2021.

In making their decision, members of the board of health felt that it was more efficient to immediately establish 21 as the legal age rather than address the issue annually over the next several years.

Chairman Kathleen M. Peterson added that setting the age at 21 right away would ensure that store owners could not use an excuse that they were not aware of the annual raise in the legal age limit if they were caught selling tobacco to a minor.

Bourne has had its share of violations for stores caught selling tobacco products to underage customers. In 2015, 11 stores were caught and cited. The following year, 12 establishments were caught. So far this year, six stores have been hit with underage tobacco sales violations.

Ms. Peterson said the change would be especially helpful to liquor store owners, many of whom sell tobacco products. The legal age to buy alcohol is already 21, so this will make checking customers’ IDs simpler, she said.

“It’s going to be easier for them because everyone will have to be 21,” she said.

Member Stanley D. Andrews said the board has always tried to be friendly to local businesses and recognized that the age increase could adversely affect sales and revenue. Mr. Andrews concurred that immediately setting the age limit at 21 was the most effective approach.

“The state has determined this and I feel we should do it once, be done, and not revisit it,” he said.

The board of health also voted to remove the cap on the number of retail establishments that can be issued tobacco sales permits. The board’s tobacco regulations had stipulated a maximum of 35 tobacco sales permits in Bourne.

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