The owner of C.B. Perkins tobacco shop at 278 Teaticket Highway asked for information from the Falmouth Board of Health about the procedure for opening a cigar bar at the location during the board’s meeting Monday, November 25.
The tobacco and cigar retailer also has locations in Hyannis and Norwell, communities where the health codes allow cigar bars or lounges.
Assistant Health Agent Mallory Langler said Falmouth’s health code does not allow smoking in a workplace where there is even a single employee beyond the owner.
Since the discussion was not on the meeting agenda, the board took no action on the matter.
During the four-month statewide ban on the sale of vaping products, the state is allowing tobacco retailers to open cigar bars, said Priya Patel, daughter of the business owner, Anil Diwan of East Falmouth.
Health board member Stephen D. Rafferty said he would not vote to approve a cigar bar in Falmouth.
“Smoking is a very unhealthy habit, so I find it awkward as a member of the board of health to take any position in favor of increasing the ease or accessibility to products that allow people to smoke,” he said.
Ms. Patel argued that, as an “adult retailer,” it would not have people under 21 as customers, and Mr. Diwan said he has never sold any products that appeal directly to children.
“Let me clarify my position: It does not have to do with children; it has to do with health,” Mr. Rafferty said.
Health board chairwoman Diana Molloy said she works as a nurse with many adults and older adults who have chronic obstructive lung disease due to smoking.
“You and I are paying for that with our Medicare dollars ongoing and forever,” she said, adding that smoking causes serious health issues even when people start smoking as young adults.
While Mr. Diwan said he has no employees but sometimes has family members help out in his stores, Health Agent Scott McGann said the owner would have to prove he has no employees, or else he would have to request a variance from the health board from the town’s exposure regulation.
The state sales license would need to be modified, Ms. Langler said, but opening a cigar bar would not affect Falmouth’s sales regulation. The issue is smoke exposure involving any paid employees.
Mr. Diwan said a cigar bar would provide smokers with “a nice place to go” and he would install ventilation systems with carbon filters to carry the smoke away.
“I hear what you want to do. As a member of the board of health, I will oppose it because smoking is bad for people,” Mr. Rafferty said. “You’ve chosen a business to sell something that is bad for people’s health, and I will do whatever I have to do to make sure we make it as hard for people to smoke in a public place as we can make it.”
Health board member Benjamin Van Mooy said, “The thing that is most insidious about this particular idea is how it undermines what the state is trying to do” in banning the sale of mentholated and flavored cigarettes to protect public health.
“By opening up this possibility, you’re undermining the intent of the law for the entire area. It’s not just about your establishment and how you run it; it has a broader impact because it’s an escape valve,” he said.