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Belmont to Up Tobacco Legal Age to 19

Town joining Needham and Brookline in raising minimum age to purchase smokes.

In a move that will make Belmont one of only three communities to do so in Massachusetts, the has approved a report on raising the minimum age at which a person can purchase cigarettes and other tobacco-related products to 19.

But it appears that the increase is a fait accompli, according to Dr. David Alper, chairman of the three-member board.

"This is a done deal," said Alper at the board's monthly meeting held on Monday, April 30.

Alper noted that the board can unilaterally increase the age without Town Meeting approval since it would be a change in health regulations and not a town bylaw.

The change will likely occur sometime this summer, said Alper.

Brookline will likely pass an age hike to 19 at its May Town Meeting while Needham first raised the minimum age requirement to 19 nine years ago and then increased it to 21 recently.

Alper said the evidence from Needham's experience is telling, with use of tobacco in the high school being cut by more than half from 13 percent to 6 percent.

"The reduction seen in the schools is great news," said Alper. "That is just the reason for such a ban."

In the 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 14 percent of Belmont High School students said they smoked some tobacco product in the previous 30 days. That was a reduction from 25 percent of High School students in 2002.

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