In March, the Board of Health discussed altering Westford’s tobacco laws to the point that a new business might have to shut its doors. No decision was made then, but one is expected on Monday night.
Madvapes, an electronic cigarette store that opened within Westford Plaza in February, would likely have to close down if a proposal to ban flavored cigarettes is approved according to store owner Tom Patel.
Patel, a Nashua, NH resident who also owns an Orange Leaf franchise in Nashua as well as small portions of gas stations across Massachusetts, came to Westford solely after seeing a potential market for electronic cigarettes that was not being served and spent $100,000 to begin the business.
During last month’s meeting, he told the board that 100 percent of his business deals with flavored electronic cigarette products in some form and was not informed about the proposed changes until 20 days after he opened.
While the Board of Health tabled a decision pending further investigation, he says that business has been good over the past month.
“Business is good, it’s been picking up day by day, we’ve been getting people from other towns also,” he said. “
While Patel would not say that electronic cigarette smoking was in fact healthy, only saying that research is still ongoing regarding its health effects, he said that it has provided him a nicotine-free alternative to tobacco cigarettes that has reduced his smoking habit.
And he reports that he’s not alone, with a recent customer also citing a comparable outcome after making the switch this week.
“(On April 6,) we had a nice customer who really wanted to quit smoking, regular smoking,” said Patel. “That’s why he came down here and said ‘I want to quit regular cigarettes and I want something to help me quit the traditional cigarette.’ He called me today and was very satisfied.”
During the March meeting, Patel also indicated that he checks the identification of every customer and he added along with others that online flavored cigarette dealers residing overseas often ignore age requirements.
That assertion as well as the claim that electronic cigarettes can potentially wean tobacco smokers and information relating to Patel’s business led Board of Health Chairman Zac Cataldo to request the delay on a decision.
Cataldo is still wary about closing Patel’s business if Westford children could still obtain flavored cigarettes online, and he notes that the town could regulate Madvapes. However, he is still concerned about the potential target audience for flavored cigarette products.
“I do feel that some of the flavors, like ‘Orange Crush’ and that are to attract kids to it. It’s a whole new topic that wasn’t around when I was a kid. It’s hard to learn if these products are attracting kids and whether the risks outweigh the benefits,” said Cataldo. “The benefit here in town is if there’s a business is carding people, we can make sure only people 21 and older are getting that product.”